• Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Antigua police, politicians come under fire

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    NOTE: The following was published today under the above headline by Caribbean News Now - the most widely read newspaper in the Caribbean.

    By Caribbean News Now contributor

    ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Local legal luminary Sir Gerald Watt QC, Washington-based attorney Anthony Hall and the opposition Antigua Labour Party have all joined former High Commissioner Sir Ronald Sanders in condemning a statement issued by the Antigua and Barbuda police last week that Sanders was a person of interest in a multi-million-dollar fraud investigation.

    Speaking on Sunday, Watt said the police acted improperly and should immediately publish an apology before the situation escalates.

    “Don’t forget long after if Sir Ronald Sanders is exonerated by a court, his position, not only in Antigua but in the region and internationally, if he wins
    it’s going to be horrendous damages and if he does, his reputation has been irreparably sullied and that’s not fair,” he said.

    In an article published today, Anthony Hall agrees with Watt and calls the claim by the Antigua police “preposterous and irresponsible.”

    “I fear however that an apology, no matter how appropriately abject, cannot possibly compensate for the damage this declaration has done to Sir Ron’s reputation,” he adds.

    Hall goes on to suggest that the police might have been acting more infurtherance of a political conspiracy than a criminal investigation.

    The ALP agrees, describing the actions by the Antigua police as “political harassment”.

    “It is now clear to members of the Central Executive of the Antigua Labour Party that this is no police investigation; it is a politically-controlled event on which millions of dollars of tax payers’ money have been spent on an abandoned Commission of Inquiry, an abandoned civil suit in Miami, the mock trial in 2009, the dormant civil suits in Antigua, a multi-million dollar report done five years ago by a forensic auditor, and now a special constable. This is an outrageous and indecent abuse of power,” the opposition party said in a statement on Sunday.

    Last week, Sanders, the High Commissioner to Britain under the ALP-led government of former prime minister Lester Bird, called the statement by the Antigua police “both defamatory and wrong,” indicating his intention to seek legal remedies.

    In a statement issued on Friday, the London law firm BCL Burton Copeland said, “We act for Sir Ronald Sanders and on his behalf strongly deplore the statement concerning him emanating from the authorities in Antigua. The language of the statement and subsequent statements are both defamatory and wrong in describing legal process in matters such as this.”

    Earlier last week, the Antigua police claimed that “All efforts to privately contact Sir Ronald Sanders have proven futile.”

    However, as publishers of a weekly column by Sanders, no attempt was made at any time by the Antigua authorities or anyone else to engage our assistance in contracting him.

    “To say that he could not be reached is absurd since, as a regional commentator, [his] website and means of contact appears weekly throughout the
    Caribbean. Further he appears regularly on television and the radio and he is active on the international stage,” Sanders’ attorneys said on Friday.

    “Sir Ronald is willing to answer questions from the Antigua police that are properly put to him,” the statement concluded.

    The investigation in question reportedly concerns a US$29.7 million loan from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Company (IHI Japan) to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA.)

  • Monday, January 9, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Antigua police owe Sir Ron an apology

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.

    (From Othello by William Shakespeare)

    Last week the Antigua police publicly declared Sir Ron Sanders a “person of interest” in a multimillion-dollar fraud investigation and insinuated that he was on the lam. But I can truly think of nothing more preposterous and irresponsible.

    It is preposterous because the police cannot demonstrate that they lifted a finger (to make a simple telephone call, for example) to contact Sir Ron before releasing this defamatory information to the press. And it is irresponsible because they know full well that such a public declaration, devoid as it is of any basis in fact, is tantamount to robbing this eminent man of his good name.

    Former Antigua Attorney General Sir Gerald Watt was sufficiently outraged by this gross abuse of legal process that he called on the police to offer Sir Ron a public apology forthwith. I second his call.

    I fear however that an apology, no matter how appropriately abject, cannot possibly compensate for the damage this declaration has done to Sir Ron’s reputation.

    Of course those of us who know him as a friend and colleague know that he is so far beyond reproach in this respect that it is laughable.

    But how, for Christ’s sake, does he explain this incomprehensible declaration by the police to others – like fellow members of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group or those of the Inter-America Democratic Charter (a group of even more eminent persons which Sir Ron was invited to join by no less a person than former U.S. President Jimmy Carter)?

    No, a simple apology will not do; although, for the sake of this country’s own reputation, the police would do well to heed Sir Gerald’s admonition to apologize without further delay.

    But the fact that Sir Ron is a person of such world renown and international esteem suggests that the police might have been acting more in furtherance of a political conspiracy than a criminal investigation.

    This is why it behooves Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer himself to order a special investigation – not just to hold to account those responsible for making this preposterous and irresponsible declaration, but also to demonstrate to the world that his government will not tolerate such brazen incompetence and flagrant abuse by his country’s police force.

    Alas, for now, something really stinks in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

  • Friday, January 6, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    Happy (Orthodox) Christmas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7. Why? Because some Orthodox Christians still follow the Julian calendar for holy dates like Christmas and Easter. And this is the day on which Christ was born according to their calendar. (Never mind that nobody really knows when he was born.)

    Of course, the vast majority of Christians follow the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, ironically, for scientific not religious reasons. Primarily, it was to correct a flaw in the Julian calendar having to do with how much time it assumes elapses between vernal equinoxes.

    But this is not the occasion for any further comment on that.

    To my Serbian and Russian friends, and to all of my Orthodox readers around the world:

    Srecan Bozic, S Rozhdestvom, Happy Christmas!

  • Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female PM, gets chance for redemption

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today, a week to the day after leading her People’s National Party (PNP) to a landslide victory over the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Portia Simpson Miller will be taking the oath of office as prime minister of Jamaica. She pledges to:

    …accept the mandate of the people with humility [and to work] unswervingly to achieve the desired growth, development, and to lift the standard of living in Jamaica.

    (The Gleaner, January 5, 2006)

    Well, if nothing else, she seems to have learned from her previous 530-day stint as prime minster (March 2006 to September 2007) how important setting the right tone for governing is to achieving success in office.

    Nothing demonstrates this quite like her reportedly cutting off all of the extravagant trappings that usually attend swearing-in ceremonies. She clearly wants to be seen as leading by example when it comes to implementing the austerity measures that are necessary to lift Jamaica out of its economic woes – most notably an $18 billion debt (which is a Greek-like 130 percent of its GDP).

    Recall that Simpson Miller made history back in March 2006 when she became Jamaica’s first female prime minister. And I was as proud as any non-Jamaican could be.

    Nonetheless, I felt compelled to rain on her parade a little by noting in Jamaica celebrates its first female prime minister that she did not win an election mandate – as she was merely serving out the remainder of the term of retiring Prime Minister PJ Paterson.

    More to the point, though, Simpson Miller seemed more interested in posing as an historic figure than in governing as a public servant. This was brought into stark relief when she sat Nero-like while Jamaicans were being devastated by Hurricane Dean. But there was more:

    Disaffection and disillusionment with the PNP and her leadership emanate far more from her failure to stem the tides of chronic unemployment, abject poverty, and violent crime… Indeed, nothing damned Simpson Miller’s prospects of winning a national mandate in her own right more than the 17 murders that occurred just last weekend. Not to mention the stench of corruption that trailed her campaign.

    (Simpson Miller out after 18 months, The iPINIONS Journal, September 4, 2007)

    This ignominious failure alone is why I am convinced that Simpson Miller not only appreciates the significance of her mandate this time around, but welcomes the opportunity to prove that she can govern too. Her party now controls 42 seats in parliament; the JPL only 21. So she really has no excuse.

    That said, it would be remiss of me not to comment on the irony, if not symmetry, of JPL leader Andrew Holness (39) making history by becoming the youngest prime minister in Jamaican history. For, like Simpson Miller, he only attained this distinction by being appointed to serve out the term of another prime minister – in his case, the resigning PM Bruce Golding.

    In fairness to Holness, however, he was fated to make history by becoming the nation’s shortest serving prime minister as well. For it is no stretch to assert that the political mess that forced Golding to resign was similar to the political mess that forced U.S. president Richard Nixon to resign.

    Golding’s downfall stemmed from revelations about his Faustian alliance with notorious drug kingpin Dudas Coke; Nixon’s from revelations about his involvement in the notorious Watergate break-in.

    But just as the Watergate affair left the Republican Party so discredited that Gerald Ford became a failed president serving when he replaced Nixon, the Coke affair left the JPL so discredited that Holness became a failed prime minister serving when he replaced Golding. (I wrote about the Coke affair in Political fraternization come home to roost in Jamaica.)

    I just hope Simpson Miller and the left-leaning PNP make more of their opportunity to clean up the mess Golding and the right-leaning JPL left behind than Jimmy Carter and the left-leaning Democratic Party did of their opportunity to clean up that which Nixon and the right-leaning Republican Party left.

    I wish “Sister P” and her “comrades” well.

    NOTE: Deadly violence has too often been a feature of national elections in Jamaica: 800 people were killed in 1980. It is particularly noteworthy therefore that only three people were reported killed during these elections, which took place on December 29.

    Related commentaries:
    Jamaica celebrates
    Simpson Miller out
    Political fraternization

  • Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Iowa Caucuses: much ado about nothing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite all of the worldwide media coverage, last night’s Republican Caucuses in Iowa were much ado about nothing. Indeed, the most intriguing thing about this quadrennial political farce was listening to reporters trying to make it seem newsworthy while admitting that the outcome will have no bearing whatsoever on who will be the Republican nominee, let alone the next president of the United States.

    In fact, no less a reporter than Brian Williams noted during last night’s broadcast of his NBC Nightly News that John McCain finished 4th four years ago but still went on to win the nomination. What he should have noted, however, is that Mike Huckabee won the Caucuses but nothing else.

    Yet even Williams could not resist the oxymoronic gesture of exhorting viewers to tune in later for in-depth analyses of the results. Huh? (For the record, political chameleon Mitt Romney edged out conservative firebrand Rick Santorum to win this year’s dubious prize. Cooky libertarian Ron Paul placed third; and political Lazurus Newt Gingrich mirrored McCain by coming in 4th.)

    Respected media critic Howard Kurtz, host of the CNN program Reliable Sources, summed up this pointless and misleading exercise in a January 2 Daily Beast commentary, Iowa Caucuses Are as Distorted as a Funhouse Mirror. Specifically, he posed the question every sane political observer poses around this time every four years, namely:

    Why, then, does Iowa — a state far whiter and more rural than most of America — get to play such an outsize role?

    Indeed – but to comment any further would be to participate in the obvious insanity this kickoff to every presidential election has become.

    Instead, what I wrote way back in September should be even more instructive than Kurtz’s commentary referenced above. Because it duly renders moot all of the hype and punditry that not only attended last night’s Caucuses, but will attend every event throughout this Republican nomination process:

    He may not send a thrill up and down the spine of the Tea Partiers and religious (anti-Mormon) nuts who comprise the base, but there are enough sensible people still in that party who recognize that only one candidate has a prayer against Obama next year, and it’s Mitt.

    (And the Republican nominee is…, The iPINIONS Journal, September 9, 2011)

    More to the point, I think I can perform a very useful public service by reprising my December 30, 2011 commentary, Obama will be reelected in a landslide, at strategic points throughout this election year. So here it is:

    ____________________

    My support for him is as strong as ever and, despite all of the kvetching by progressives and demonizing by conservatives, I predict he’ll be reelected in a Reagan-style landslide.

    (In support of Obama: my abiding … HOPE, The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2011)

    Foremost, I think Obama should be re-elected based solely on his record of accomplishments. In fact, even though Republicans roundly condemned him as an uppity braggart, none of them challenged his assertion recently that only three presidents could boast of similar accomplishments during their first term.

    Nonetheless, I am mindful that, with Democrats doing almost as much as Republicans to foil his pragmatic agenda, Obama has been looking a lot like Wile Coyote lately: beep, beep.

    We are in for some of the dirtiest and most divisive campaigning in U.S. history, and that’s just among Republican presidential candidates vying for their party’s nomination. But when all is said and done, I am convinced that even some (White) Republicans will think twice about helping to perpetrate the historic spectacle of re-electing George W. Bush to a second term — after he nearly bankrupted the country with his unfunded wars and tax cuts for the rich, but denying Obama a second term — despite his commendable efforts against the odds to clean up the mess Bush left behind.

    Besides, trust me folks, race matters. This is why I am even more convinced that disappointed (White) Democrats like actor Matt Damon, as well as Independents whose votes are so indispensable, will definitely think twice about causing this first Black president to go down in history as a failure — especially given all of the mediocre White presidents who cruised to second terms.

    Related commentaries:
    In support of Obama
    Election 2010

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