By Sabeerah Abdul- Majied
Islamic Post Staff Writer
More than 70 world leaders will participate in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad from April 17-19, 2009. It will be the first time the prestigious event has been held in the Caribbean and in a CARICOM member state. The Summit is the only forum where the 34 democratically elected Heads of State and Government of the Western Hemisphere meet to share their vision for the development of the hemisphere. The leaders will deliberate on matters related to the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region. Prime Minister Manning noted in an address to parliament that the summit has implications for, “the lives of some 2.8 billion people living in the Americas and the Commonwealth.”
The theme of the Summit is, “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability”. Discussions will focus on issues related to the global economic situation, environmental management, social protection and poverty eradication. Education, public security systems and entrepreneurship will also be discussed. The collective responses and agreements will inform yet another conference- the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which Trinidad will also host from November 27-29, 2009.
In 1994 the leaders of the Hemisphere met for the first summit in Miami on the initiative of President Clinton. Since then a 2nd summit was held in Chile (1998). This was followed by the 3rd summit in Canada (2001) and the 4th in Argentina (2005). The summits have provided a forum for sharing experiences and developing solutions to problems that affect the people of the Americas.
Critics have raised issue with the tremendous cost to the tiny Republic ($2bn according to Newsday, February 15, 2009) for hosting the event. However the prime minister believes that it is a progressive vision which could yield development, progress and greater regional integration.
Preparation for the summit is in progress and includes readying the official venues- The Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the Diplomatic Centre for the event. Further, two cruise ships anchored in the Port of Spain Harbor will provide additional accommodation for delegates and other international participants. National security is also being upgraded to meet the standard required for hosting US President Barack Obama and other heads of state. Signs of preparation are most visible at the Piarco International Airport which will accommodate the largest number of non- commercial aircrafts ever to land on its runway.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Ramadan, Trinidad
Interfaith in the Caribbean
By Umm Suleiman
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Many non Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago abstained from eating for part of the day, or drank water only or ate fruits for some days in honor of the holy month of Ramadan.
Numerous family members and peers in the work place skipped meals in an effort to show solidarity with Muslims.
Although Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, many Christians and God fearing people also attempt fasting during this time, but admit that the fast of the Muslim requires more self sacrifice than perhaps they can manage.
While it is only Allah, the Most High, who helps the Muslims to fast through some of these hot days on the two islands, where Muslims tally about 11% of the population, people of the Old and New Testaments used to fast in the same manner as the Muslims, from before sunrise to after sunset, in accordance with Divine command.
The population of the Caribbean island is predominantly Christian, and support for Muslims continued through to the celebration of Eid ul Fitr.
Eid is a public holiday and a national celebration in Trinidad and Tobago, and was declared for October 1st this year by President George Maxwell Richardson. As is customary the President was advised by representatives of the Muslim community based on the estimated date for citing the new moon.
Muslims have traditionally invited non Muslim family and friends to their homes to partake in sharing a meal on Eid day. As a result, Eid festivities have become part of the general culture. Non Muslims expect and look forward to being invited to eat roti and curried dishes and to drink sawien, a drink made from vermicelli, milk, raisins and spices.
Well wishers also give Eid cards and gifts to their Muslim brothers and sisters. It is not uncommon to have a relative request from the recipient a translation of the Arabic on a decorative plaque which they purchased as a gift. A person may receive their most expensive Eid gift from a non Muslim.
This year there were banners proclaiming the celebration of Eid in several public places. While an Eid banner is expected to be displayed on mosques, it was truly a wonderful sight to behold a large, fluttering sign displaying best wishes on the National Library.
Our Christian and non Muslim brothers and sisters who “fasted” this Ramadan and took the time to congratulate, and even celebrate, on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr 2008, brought an abundance of joy to the festivities of the fast-breaking this year.
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Arawaks, Caribs, Trinidad
By Sabeerah Abdul- Majied
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Web logs from students of Caribbean Civilization a Foundations Course at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad W. I., ranged from disgust to hurt, after discovering that stories they have learned about “Caribs and Arawaks,” which two tribes are usually mentioned as being the original indigenous Caribbean peoples, are apparently untrue.
Most students have learned throughout their elementary and high school years that when Columbus “discovered” the Caribbean there were two tribes: the warlike “Caribs” and the peaceful “Arawaks.” These tribes were well established in the region prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the most notable among them being Christopher Columbus, who stumbled upon the Caribbean islands and set about searching for gold for Spain.
Students had also been told that the Spaniards had to confront the “Caribs” who were said to be cannibals.
“People will laugh at you if you try to tell them that there were no Caribs,” Sharlene wrote in her blog. Another student was downright scared about the religious belief system he was taught. He wrote, “It is quite possible that their [i.e., Europeans] religion and teachings could be false? What religion did we have before they changed us?”
These are conflicting thoughts that students have to deal with as they gain new understandings about lies recorded in history books for over 500 years. Historians are revising the accounts sometimes with the aid of technology. For example archaeologists state that no evidence supports widespread and systematic cannibalism by indigenous peoples. They have found no scorched human bones or bones with knife or saw cuts or unnatural fractures widely scattered. Hence the Myth of Carib cannibalism has been exposed.
In fact the native peoples did not even call themselves Caribs or Arawaks. Those were names given to them by the Spaniards after they invaded in the 15th century. There were no passive Arawak tribes in the Greater Antilles either. In reality the “so called” passive Arawaks confronted the strange and terrifying European weapons with determination and courage. Several stories like that of chief Hatuey, who fought the Spanish and was later captured and burnt at the stake are now told. Native peoples were murdered, enslaved or they died from the diseases that resulted from contact with the European explorers who landed.
These new understandings inspire rewriting of the history of indigenous peoples, enslaved peoples, and indentured labourers. These “revisionist” writings seem to be part of a worldwide trend towards the revitalization of ancient cultures and practices. Among them are stories of indigenous peoples around the world who were massacred or wronged by invaders and then had historical lies written about them by their conquerors.
Indigenous peoples in the Americas want the world to know that their ancestors valued and respected the earth, and lived in traditional balance having respect for different peoples and creatures. They were not scalp-hunting “Wild Indians.” Also those who are yet uninformed need to know that many enslaved Africans were Muslims!
They were forcefully given new names and new identities by their captors.
These new understandings about world histories, peoples and cultural practices are gaining worldwide recognition as we race towards the last days. As more and more lies are exposed we need to understand the common roots that tie us all to one Almighty creator and unite. He made us different that we might know one another, not oppress each other or separate into fragmented groups. We need to discover the truth and act upon new knowledge simply to survive!
Filed under: August Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Barbados, Caricom, CWC, IMPACS, JRCC, RIFC, Trinidad, USAID
By Farhana Jamal, Islamic Post Staff Writer
A regional judicial system which uses its own code of laws and methods of enforcement has been initiated in the Caribbean with the implementation of the Caricom’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and its communication arm, the Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC), which is prided for its access to Interpol databases.
According to a Caribbean Community (Caricom) website, “The multi layered security platform that was implemented by the Caribbean to host [2007 Cricket World Cup] CWC, saw the establishment of the JRCC. This centre utilised a number of watch lists, including Interpol’s ( …) database to check every passenger arriving in the Region or traveling throughout the region by air and sea. Caricom Heads of Government have already agreed that the JRCC, which is headquartered in Barbados, will remain as a permanent structure. The other agency to remain is the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre (RIFC).”
However, the “security platform” had its roots in a data sheet from the year 2000 which was issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), called “Rule of Law.” The project was funded in that year at approximately a half million in aid to improve “the efficiency and fairness of the legal systems throughout the Caribbean.”
The USAID data sheet lists the program to have met its aims, part of which appears to be a decrease in national sovereignty. “Cases that formerly had to be decided in the formal court system are now being referred by judges for mediation,” the sheet says.
For the future, “Laws will be developed to support free trade and competition, curb international crime, and protect human rights,” claimed USAID. Since 2000, when the report was written, the region has seen a dramatic increase in crime; a crippling increase in free trade, which has translated into food importation and a subsequent loss of food sovereignty; and increasing human rights issues stemming directly from the new security measures.
Ultimately, and perhaps underhandedly, the Caricom-hosted Cricket World Cup was the vehicle used to push through more stringent customs and immigrations policies in the region. Caricom was subsequently able to boast “the first region in the world to integrate a national and regional border control structure with Interpol’s global database.”
After May 2007, when the temporary Caricom special visa requirements ended, travelers were told that procedures had gone back to normal. But very little has gone back to normal; security measures have become yet more stringent, and any guidelines to help travelers comply have gone underground.
As part of heightened security in the area, the JRCC uses not only the Interpol database of terrorists to screen travelers, but also Caricom nations’ lists of “individuals of concern” for a more involved screening process.
Why all this is necessary seems to be a mystery, but the results are clear. People are being denied entry into Caricom nations without any delivery of explanation of suspicion, or offered proof. Others have been detained, then repatriated “without the cumbersome process of extradition” to their countries of origin under the Caricom Arrest Warrant Treaty, which predictably denies the detainee access to the “formal court system” mentioned above.
Free Movement of People.
According to Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, these regulations have not assisted the “free movement of people,” which is one of Caricom’s goals and the stated reason for so many alien procedures. In practice, however, it has become increasingly burdensome to travel inside and into the region.
Guyana’s Government Information Agency reported the stance of President Jagdeo that although “it was in recognition of this [free movement of people] that we decided to fast track arrangements for the unrestricted movements of our people throughout the region,” President Jagdeo noted that the very opposite is happening and people have not been able to enjoy “one of the basic rights of hassle free travel.”
Guyana’s head of state also stated, “What I find most disturbing is not the issue of the denial of entry of CARICOM citizens at the various ports of entry in the community but, the humiliation suffered at the hands of some of the immigration officers at these ports.”
GINA continued by saying, “A number of Guyanese have complained about the treatment they received at the hands of immigration authorities in Barbados. Though these complaints have declined, they have begun to emerge from Guyanese attempting to enter Trinidad and Tobago [TT] with a group of Guyanese recently complaining about the treatment they received when they attempted to enter TT for employment purposes.”
Local authorities have also been publicly humiliated by the policing body in place for the CWC which consisted of international and regional officers. Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados and Head of the Caricom Ad Hoc Committee on Security and Other Related Matters for Cricket World Cup 2007, Mia Mottley, complained about the open frisking of Barbados Police officers by CWC officers during the games. She stated in a Caricom press release that “there had been prolonged discussions between CARICOM member states and CWC officials long before the commencement of the tournament in respect to this issue. These discussions had clarified the role and responsibility of the national police forces in relation to enforcement of law and order and the primacy of the police in respect to national security within any host country, over and above the role of CWC officials or private security. The Deputy Prime Minister stated that the authority of the police was a fundamental element of national law that could not be ignored. She added that there will be dialogue with CWC officials to ensure that such action will not be repeated.”
It is not clear why CWC officials had the authority to ignore Deputy PM Mottley’s initial requests.
The Associated Press reported on the new “Rule of Law Index,” which came out on July 3 at the World Justice Forum in Vienna. The Index is “aimed at helping the United States and others countries pursue more fair policies in the pursuit of terrorists.”
Jurist, reporting on the same Forum, stated, “Developing a more quantitatively-oriented assessment tool was deemed important because dictators often use the language of democracy to legitimize their actions. In its World Report 2008, Human Rights Watch criticized established democracies for not doing enough to expose dubious democratic claims by authoritarian regimes.”
Filed under: July Volume I- 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags: Guyana, news, suppressed news, Trinidad
By Islamic Post Staff Writer
New York judge Dora Irizarry, appointed by former mayor Rudy Giuliani to the criminal bench in 1996, ruled of late that none of the information released to the defense in Russell Defreitas’ case, including all transcripts, notes and other documents determined to be evidence by the prosecution, may be shared with the media.
The Guyanese-born man was accused along with three others, of plotting to blow up John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, after an alleged sting operation involving a U.S. informant. Defreitas, who has been held in a Brooklyn jail since June last year, is now accused of being the mastermind behind the plan. The judge said anyone who breached that order would be in contempt of court, according to Caribbean360.
Prosecutors said Defreitas, a 63-year-old former J.F.K. airport worker, conducted surveillance of the airport using photographs, a video camera and satellite images. The prosecution also claimed that the men used their connections to present a terrorist plot to radical groups in South America and the Caribbean, also according to Caribbean360.
Defreitas’ co-accused, former Guyanese parliamentarian, Abdul Kadir, his countryman Abdel Nur and Trinidadian, Kareem Ibrahim, were in custody in Trinidad and Tobago until late last month, fighting extradition to the U.S..
Reuters reported back in December that Kareem Ibrahim was undergoing a psychiatric test to see if he could be sent to the United States for trial. Local reporters confirm that he was being held at St. Anne’s hospital, otherwise known as “The Mad-House.” The extradition took place on June 23.
(…article continues below)
Huda Ibrahim (right), 21, claims that her
father was entrapped by Steve Francis Taveras (left) 36, now publicly known by his background as a twice convicted drug felon working under cooperation deals with U.S. federal authorities
(Terry DeSouza AKA Steve Francis Taveras, Trinidad Daily Express photo; Huda Ibrahim, AFP/Getty Images)
More “aspirational” than operational.
During the appellate hearing in Trinidad, defense attorney Fyard Hosein said the U.S. government had not presented any evidence to show the men were involved in a terrorist plot. He said the men lacked the funds and capacity to organize such a thing, claimed the men had been entrapped by an informant who was working with U.S. law enforcement in order to reduce his own sentence for drug trafficking. “From the evidence, none of the claimants are originators of this plot,” Hosein said.
CaribWorldNews reported that the informant, Steve Francis Taveras (AKA Terry DeSouza, AKA Anas Knaddert), while working with law enforcement agents, began monitoring the plot at its early stages and made numerous recorded conversations with the defendants.
Huda Ibrahim, daughter of Kareem Ibrahim, issued a statement to the media last year claiming U.S. justice officials had engaged in entrapment: “Unfortunately, innocent persons with no connection whatsoever to the political and military disputes between the United States and the Middle East …have been used as pawns in an international game of subterfuge.”
Authorities have acknowledged the plot was more “aspirational” than operational.
Prior to the media seal on the case, investigators [full story] were able to access information about the informant, releasing facts about his prior drug convictions. Francis was arrested by detectives assigned to an NYPD Tactical Narcotics Team. He was nabbed carrying a Gap bag containing five kilogram packages of cocaine. A subsequent search of a Kingsbridge apartment connected to Francis turned up 44 more kilo-sized packages. When asked about his cocaine-filled satchel, Francis told one officer that he “just found the bag.” At the time of his bust, a kilo of cocaine wholesaled for about $25,000. Since the street value was double that amount, the coke seized from Francis was worth around $2 million. Indicted on four felony charges, Francis was jailed and his bail was set at $1 million.
Francis remained in custody, records show, for nearly a year, until mid-December 2003. It was then that Francis cut his second cooperation deal. The first took place in 1994 after Francis was arrested by federal agents and charged with distributing “large quantities” of cocaine in West Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens. Though federal guidelines called for an “imprisonment range” of between 27 and 34 years, Francis was only given a seven-year sentence.
While the nature and extent of his 1990’s government cooperation remains confidential, and the 2003 agreement and guilty plea are not part of the public record, the criminal complaint in the JFK terror case notes that, “The Source was…convicted on drug trafficking charges in the New York Supreme Court in 2003. His sentence in that case is pending as part of his cooperation agreement with the government.”
Francis’ bail was slashed from $1 million to $50,000. He was released after his older brother deposited $5000 with the court.
As for what Francis was doing for the State Department in 2004, 2005, and early-2006, and the extent of the “financial assistance” that officials said they provided to him, it was originally thought that the details may have surfaced at the trial, but now it seems the world may never know.