St. Kitts government to table marijuana use legislation

The government of St. Kitts-Nevis says it plans to table legislation in Parliament on Tuesday allowing for the regulated and controlled use of marijuana for medicinal, scientific, religious and recreational purposes in the twin island Federation.

A government statement said that Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris will table the amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

“The far-reaching legislative amendments come after the Cabinet established a National Marijuana Commission to ascertain the views of citizens and residents on cannabis use,” the statement said, noting that the consultations, which were chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, had “found unanimous agreements for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Federation”.

It said that the Commission had also recommended a phased approach to the establishment of a marijuana industry and that the Cabinet adopted the Commission’s report on February 18.

But it noted that since then the High Court has ruled that some prohibitions on cannabis use outlined in the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, Cap 9.08, were too broad and inconsistent with the Constitution.

The statement said that the government has responded with amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

It quoted Harris as promising that his administration would give “special support and priority to locals interested in pursuing marijuana cultivation and trade within the confines of the law”.

CARICOM remains divided at OAS on Venezuela issue

Countries in the Caribbean remain divided on the way forward in dealing with the protracted political crisis in Venezuela.

At a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, four Caribbean countries voted to “accept’ the nomination of a candidate supported by Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro as head of state in the South American country.

St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Bahamas voted in favour of accepting Gustavo Tarre “as the National Assembly’s designated permanent representative, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government,” in Venezuela.

But Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, joined Venezuela in voting against the measure, while Barbados, Guyana, St. Kitts- Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Belize was the only CARICOM country absent when the vote was taken on Tuesday.

The OAS Permanent Council is chaired by the United States, which is at the forefront of efforts to remove Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year, from power.

The four CARICOM countries that voted in favour of the resolution have supported the so-called Lima Group that is seeking Maduro’s removal and last month met with United States President Donald Trump on Venezuela.

CARICOM has adopted a united position on the Venezuelan matter and in February, the regional leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The vote at the OAS came on the same day that the St. Lucia government said that it was re-affirming its position that the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace and that there should be “no third state intervention” in Caracas.

Sir Neville Cenac, Governor General St. Lucia

Governor General, Sir Neville Cenac, delivering the traditional Throne speech at the start of a new parliamentary session in St. Lucia, in which he outlined the government’s priorities, said that in the case of Venezuela, “we have reaffirmed that the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace, consistent with the provisions of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) and the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, endorsed by all 33 Member States of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  “We are unequivocal in our view that there should be no third state intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela and will continue to resist any action that could jeopardize the peace, safety or security of the Caribbean region,” Sir Neville told legislators.

The Governor General also said that in July, St. Lucia will assume the chairmanship of the 15-member CARICOM grouping, adding “notwithstanding the matters that divide us, we must continue to deepen the integration movement to the benefit of all member states.

“We must take concerted action to combat climate change, we must find common creative ways to resist efforts to undermine our economic bases.  Above all, we must identify the means of pursuing individual developmental interests without rending asunder the ties that bind us as a region,” the Head of State told legislators.

T&T Prime Minister not perturbed by lack of invitation to US President’s residence

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Keith Rowley
Dr. Keith Rowley, Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has brushed aside suggestions that Port of Spain had been snubbed by United States President Donald Trump who is expected to meet with selective CARICOM leaders on the Venezuela issue in Miami on Friday.

At a post cabinet brief on Thursday, Rowley told the media that he does not feel diminshed in anyway, having not been invited to the private residence of US President Trump.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have never stood taller, we have never stood prouder and as I speak to you now CARICOM’s position as reaffirmed in the last meeting of heads in St. Kitts-Nevis is that there are three people representing and authorised to represent CARICOM outside of its heads and caucus and that’s the Chairman of CARICOM, who is the Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis (Dr. Timothy Harris) Trinidad and Tobago its prime minister or designate and Barbados through its prime minister or designate.”

Prime Ministers Allen Chastanet (St. Lucia), Hubert Minnis ( the Bahamas), Andrew Holness (Jamaica) and Jovenel Moise (Haiti) are scheduled to meet with Trump at his private residence in Miami on Friday.

This private meeting comes after their countries, in January, supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognizing President Nicolas Maduro’s second five-year term.

But CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis last month reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis where Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó with the support of Washington and its allies, is seeking to replace Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term in January.

In late January, regional leaders, led by Harris and including Mottley and Rowley met with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.

The delegation also participated in a meeting in an international meeting in Uruguay where the Montevideo Mechanism was adopted saying it presents “the only objective mechanism” to address the complex political situation in Venezuela”.

Rowley reiterated the CARICOM position on wanting a peaceful solution in Venezuela, and described the meeting taking place with Trump on Friday as a “meeting of the Lima Group” to which the Caribbean islands invited are members.

“We from early, St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we did not sign on to the Lima Group. So we are not reacting to an invitation to a man’s house.

“Our foreign policy has always given us an insight of the road ahead. So what you seeing there is a meeting of the Lima Group people at the private residence of the president.”

“We can’t stay outside and say we should have been invited. Since when we measuring our stature and our station by who invite us to their house. We are not about that,” he said, noting that Trinidad and Tobago is about the principles as outlined in the United Nations Charter of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries and ensuring a peaceful global environment.

Dr. Keith Rowley at Thursday post-Cabinet media brief

Rowley pointed out that the leaders who will be meeting Trump on Friday are “the ones who have agreed to be a part of the Lima Group” whose sole objective he says “is regime change in Venezuela”.

Rowley said the four CARICOM leaders will decide for themselves how they will achieve the change they are looking for in Venezuela, but remained adamant that Trinidad and Tobago will “stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world”.

Rowley, who read a lengthy statement highlighting the Charter of the United Nations, said that he could not say whether the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat had been informed of the meeting with the selective regional leaders, telling reporters, however that the Secretariat “is constantly in communication with us.

“The last and the standing decision of CARICOM was that the team as put by the caucus to deal with the Venezuelan matter from a diplomatic standpoint …was the chairman, St. Kitts-Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. That is the standing CARICOM position”.

“So any action of and member of CARICOM acting in their own sovereignty that’s what it is”.

Seven Caribbean countries BLACKLISTED

Seven Caribbean Countries have been placed on the European Union Commission's list of non-cooperative jurisdictions.

Trinidad and Tobago is among seven Caribbean countries named on the revised financial blacklist of the European Union (EU).

The updated list follows an assessment of 92 countries by the Commission of Finance Minister of the EU based on three criteria: tax transparency, good governance and real economic activity, as well as one indicator, the existence of a zero corporate tax rate.

The report published on March 12 states that Trinidad and Tobago continues to be recognized as a non-cooperative jurisdiction concerning taxation because it “has a “Non-Compliant” rating by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes for Exchange of Information on Request”.

It added that the country’s “commitment to comply with criteria 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 2.1 by the end of 2019 will be monitored.

Barbados, which was on the grey list, had now been put back onto the blacklist, after failing to give a commitment to amend or abolish what the EU described as a “harmful preferential tax regime”. The EU report stated Barbados had replaced one “preferential tax regime by a measure of similar effect and did not commit to amend or abolish it by the end of 2019”.

The report said Aruba and Belize had not yet amended or abolished one harmful preferential tax regime; but the Commission will monitor Belize’s commitment to amend or abolish its newly identified harmful preferential tax regime by the end of 2019.

It said Bermuda “facilitates offshore structures and arrangements aimed at attracting profits without real economic substance and has not yet resolved this issue” and “Dominica does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, and has not yet resolved these issues”.

“US Virgin Islands does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified, including through the jurisdiction they are dependent on, the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, has harmful preferential tax regimes, did not commit to apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues.”

Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia are jurisdictions “committed to amend or abolish harmful tax regimes by end 2019,” the EU report said.

The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands meanwhile are described as jurisdictions “committed to addressing the concerns relating to economic substance in the area of collective investment funds, have engaged in a positive dialogue with the Group [EU Commission] and have remained cooperative, but require further technical guidance, were granted until end 20192 to adapt their legislation”.

In a statement, the Commission has described the act of blacklisting countries, which started in 2017, as a “true success with many countries having changed their laws and tax systems to comply with international standards”.

It said that Tuesday’s “update shows that this clear, transparent and credible process delivered a real change: 60 countries took action on the Commission’s concerns and over 100 harmful regimes were eliminated.

“The list has also had a positive influence on internationally agreed tax good governance standards,” the release from the EU said.

“The EU tax havens list is a true European success. It has had a resounding effect on tax transparency and fairness worldwide”, said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.

“Thanks to the listing process, dozens of countries have abolished harmful tax regimes and have come into line with international standards on transparency and fair taxation. The countries that did not comply have been blacklisted, and will have to face the consequences that this brings. We are raising the bar of tax good governance globally and cutting out the opportunities for tax abuse.” 

The UE said the next steps include sending letters to blacklisted jurisdictions explaining the decision and how they can be de-listed; continue monitoring jurisdictions that have compliance deadlines; and continue to provide technical support and clarifications whenever needed and to discuss any tax matters of mutual concern.

Grenada watchdog group concerned about conflict of interest in possible economic citizenship programme

A local watchdog group calling themselves Citizens in Defense of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage, has written to Prime Minister Tillman Thomas expressing concern with his government’s alleged engagement of Henley & Partners to facilitate the development of its economic citizenship program. Continue reading