2019 WRAP: Caribbean Survives Elections, Political Scandals, Crime

Author  Edited from CMC

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – When the American Ervin Drake wrote the lyrics for his song “It Was A Very Good Year” in 1961, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was not born as yet and Guyana’s President David Granger was 21.

But the 47-year-old Skerrit and Granger, now 74, have every reason to say 2019 was a good year for them, albeit for different reasons.

Skerrit became Dominica’s first prime minister to win four consecutive general elections, leading his ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) to a fifth consecutive victory and beating main Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) 18 to three in the two-way fight for control of the 21-member Parliament.

In Guyana, Granger’s coalition government, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), was able to remain in office even though it had been defeated in an Opposition-inspired motion of no confidence in Dec. 2018. Guyana votes on Mar. 2.

The Virgin Islands Party (VIP), headed by Andrew A. Fahie, last March won the general elections in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), capturing eight of the 13 seats at stake.In Montserrat, another British Overseas Territory, Easton Taylor-Farrell, led his Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) into power in November.

WOES

The year 2019 was not good for President Jovenel Moise in Haiti, who came to power in 2017, and Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse, leaders of the only two non-English-speaking countries in CARICOM.

Moise spent 2019 deflecting calls for his resignation by Opposition parties that staged violent and fatal demonstrations across the French-speaking country. Opposition parties have accused Moise of corruption and unsuccessfully sought to impeach him.

In November, a Military Court sentenced Bouterse to 20 years in prison for his involvement in the 1982 murders of 15 political opponents of his then military government in the Dutch-speaking country. The court did not order his detention.Bouterse was out of the country when the verdict was given, but has since filed an appeal.

He is now concentrating on the general elections, constitutionally due by mid-2020.Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and, possibly, SVG should may also hold general elections in 2020.

CRIME

Crime, especially murders, remained unabated in the Caribbean in 2019.

Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda and even Barbados were among CARICOM countries where crime was a major issue.

In Jamaica, the 2018 figure of 1,287 murders was passed with at least two weeks remaining in 2019.In T&T, the murder toll also passed the 2018 figure of 517.

In Barbados, the island recorded 48 murders as the year was coming to an end, the highest ever, almost doubling the 28 murders of 2018.In Bermuda, the police said 131 murders had been committed with just a few days left in 2019, compared with 144 the previous year.

Politicians also found themselves part of the crime situation in the Caribbean. In T&T, Marlene McDonald, the public administration minister, was sacked by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley for a third time since his administration came to power in 2015, after she and several others, including her husband Michael Carew, appeared in court on several offenses of conspiracy to defraud the government.

In Jamaica, Education Minister Ruel Reid, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, and President of the Caribbean Maritime University Professor Fritz Pinnock appeared in court on charges resulting from a corruption probe into the Education Ministry and the CMU. Local government Councillor Kim Brown-Lawrence was also charged.

ECONOMY

In 2019, several Caribbean countries began implementing legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana as regional countries sought to cash in on the lucrative international marijuana trade for medicinal and other purposes.

In August, Barbados introduced legislation to establish the legal foundation for a local medical marijuana industry, joining Jamaica, SVG as well as Antigua and Barbuda in approving cannabis cultivation. A law is also in the works in St. Kitts and Nevis while in Bermuda legislation was tabled in the Senate to legalize medical cannabis and regulations to govern licenses for Bermudian growers and importers.T&T amended its dangerous Drugs Act to allow citizens to be in possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana.

Meanwhile, the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said the 2014-2020 period will mark the lowest growth in the region in the last seven decades. Overall, the International Monetary Fund said while economic prospects are improving in the Caribbean, they are doing so “with substantial variation across countries.”

While most of the Caribbean may have been spared the full brunt of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, it was not so in the case of The Bahamas. On Sept. 1, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, swept through the nation, killing nearly 70 people and causing damage estimated at $3.4 billion.

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