2004-09-09 / Caribbean Corner

hurricane ivan causes chaos, killing three

  • ST. GEORGE’S Grenada (AP) – At least three people are reported dead in Grenada and the island remains virtually cut off from the rest of the world after widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan which also dealt a severe blow to parts of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • Donovan Gentles, a senior officer at the Barbados-based Caribbean Disas-ter Response Agency, CDERA, told Associated Press that telecommunications were down in Grenada.

    “Early reports out of Grenada suggest that the city of St. George’s is almost totally devastated. We have not been able to confirm much of that information because we have lost contact with that island at present.

    “This morning we are trying to mo-bilize our resources to go into Grenada so that we can get some first hand information, but all indications are that the island of Grenada was the most severely impacted,” Mr Gentles said.

    A meeting of regional and international donor agencies is being convened this morning at CDERA’s offi-ces in Bridgetown.

    Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning said Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mit-chell had reported that his home had been flattened along with many others.

    Trinidad and Tobago is providing US$1.6 million in immediate assistance to Grenada and Mr Manning has also said he will send a contingent of soldiers to Grenada at Mr Mitchell’s request, according to the Caribbean news agency.

    In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there have been no fatalities but many injuries have been reported.

    “There has been a lot of property damage. There’s been a report of some 120 houses losing their roofs. The hard-est hit area has been the Grenadines. The small islands of the Grenadines where on Union Island one of the most southern of the islands, the hospital there completely lost its roof and in fact had its staff huddled in one room for most of the hurricane.

    “On Palm Island, one of the resorts there seems to have recorded quite a lot of damage, including the jetty so that not even boats can go to the is-land. In the north-eastern area of the island some 90 houses were lost around the shoreline.”

    A Hurricane warning remains in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

    Jamaica’s National Metereological Service says if the storm maintains it current path, weather conditions could start deteriorating by later on Wednes-day.

    Jamaica which expects Ivan’s winds to reach it by Friday has been preparing to weather the storm.

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed hope for Haiti’s future.

    A delegation which visited Haiti last week reported its findings to the permanent council of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington recenty.

    In a press release, the IACHR said it has taken on board the commitment by Haiti’s interim government to making human rights protection a top priority.

    The Commission is also looking forward to elections in 2005 expected to provide an opportunity to establish greater stability for Haiti’s future.

    But these hopeful sentiments have not prevented its delegation from getting a realistic picture of the situation in Haiti, after speaking to a wide cross-section of officials, interest groups, politicians of all shades, and ordinary Haitians.

    The Commission’s told the OAS General Assembly that it is still concerned over several key areas in which the basic rights and freedoms of Hait-ians remain weak and imperilled.

    The unresolved security situation is the Commission’s biggest concern.

    The Commission said armed groups still appear to control security in significant areas of the country. It urged the government to provide more effective protection to people living in those regions and called for urgent steps to disarm these groups.

    It was pointed out that there were only 3,000 police officers for a population of over eight million but said that the Latortue government has developed a plan for recruiting and training new officers in the near future.

    Another major concern relates to the longstanding problem of weakness-es in the Haitian justice system including a severe shortage of resources for members of the judiciary.

    The list of concerns also includes objections raised before the Commis-sion regarding the treatment of specific individuals within the judicial system, and the arrest and detention of former ministers of the previous government, among them former prime min-ister Yvon Neptune.

    Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told the delegation he will discontinue the practice of preventing former Haitian government officials from leaving the country without permission.

    Alleged acts of violence against in-dividuals based upon their political affiliation, the rape of women and girls by armed groups and bandits and child labor were also of grave concern to the Commission.

    With regard to these problems, the country’s Women’s Affairs ministry said it will encourage law reform initiatives to deal specifically with the needs of women, including proposals to render rape a crime under Haitian law and develop women’s groups throughout Haiti.

    KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – The Jamaica Transport Authority is working on an initiative to provide ‘peer counselling’ in schools as a way to stop schoolchildren engaging in sexual practices on public buses.

    Earlier this year Jamaican society was appalled by reports that some school-children were behaving in an inappropriate manner - in some instances re-portedly for money - blaming the practice on a breakdown in moral values.

    Concern that the situation was getting out of control prompted the Trans-port Authority to introduce new measures such as removing tinted windows from the front and back of buses and requiring bus operators not to play particular music seen to encourage this type of behavior.

    Now the authority is working on an initiative to set up a ‘peer counselling’ program, going into schools to discourage children from engaging in sexual behavior although details of the program are still under discussion.

    The Transport Authority received around 20 complaints over approximately a seven month period but no charges were ever brought against anyone believed to be involved.

    According to Joan Fletcher, Man-aging Director of the Transport Autho-rity, problems arose with gathering evidence against drivers.

    “In terms of clear and decisive evidence we had a problem with that because people who were actually calling to say ‘I’ve actually observed this’ were unwilling to provide us with anything definitive,” Mrs Fletcher said.

    She said the authority has held seminars with drivers to re-educate them and remind them that if they engage in sexual practices with schoolchildren, they face possible criminal charges and their licenses can be suspended.

    While both the Transport Authority and the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) both say the problem has curtailed, they say that these measures are necessary going into the new term.

    President of the JTA, Wentworth Gabidan, said the association had supported legal action for those found guilty of involvement but said the mea-sures introduced by the transport au-thority to combat the problem seemed to have worked.

    He said the association supported the Transport Authority’s training program.

    “It will help, it is right that we should teach our children how to behave in all circumstances and all of them need a reminder at times, they are sometimes led astray by older people, men, boys and so for there to be a constant reminder, I think it will help,” Mr Gabidan said.

    GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – The commission set up in Guyana to look into allegations of a death squad operating in the country has extended the deadline for evidence because no statements have been received as yet.

    Four weeks ago the commission - which was set up mainly to investigate claims that the country’s Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj had links to death squads - invited potential witnesses to send statements by 31 August.

    Early on Wednesday, the commission announced that no statements had been received. The chairman of the commission Justice Ian Chang said he would extend the deadline until 27 September and would summon witness-es if no evidence was forthcoming.

    News that nobody has come forward has not come as a surprise to many in Guyana following the murder of George Bacchus on 24 June.

    Mr Bacchus was due to stand as a key witness in the inquiry into the death squad allegations. He claimed to have worked as an informant for the alleged death squad, which he said Mr Gajraj was involved with. Mr Gajraj has de-nied the allegations.

    Justice Keith Messiah, former attorney general, minister of legal affairs and member of the commission, said he thought the main reason witnesses have not been making statements was fear for their safety.

    “There must be any number of people out there who would like to come and testify and would like to give state-ments to the commission but having regard to the fact that Bacchus, who was one of the main people concerned in this matter, was killed so brutally, no-body is going to come to testify who doesn’t feel he has some security for himself and his family,” Mr Messiah said.

    On Wednesday however, the commission chairman Justice Ian Chang said he could give no assurances that the police had now given a firm undertaking that they will provide some form of witness protection.

    “The commission has the power to subpoena any person to satisfy the com-mission who in our opinion can give material evidence. And we have such people in mind,” he said.

    Mr Chang also said witnesses will have the option to give evidence in camera, but according to the law, the minister of home affairs must be free to attend if such testimony is given.

    Return to top

    Copyright© 2000 - 2017
    Canarsie Courier Publications, Inc.
    All Rights Reserved