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Antigua

National Security Minister Dr. Errol Cort met recently with senior police officials of the Antigua and Barbuda Police Force to deal with an upsurge in criminal activities especially gun-related crimes on the island.

Cort, who said he has ordered a full investigation into two incidents in which murder suspects were able to escape from police custody last month, has termed the situation ”wholly unacceptable.”

A government statement quoted Cort as saying that “the Crime Fighting Strategic Plan will be critically reviewed”.

Ten people were murdered in Antigua and Barbuda for 2012.

Two men wanted in connection with a double murder in October were able to escape after being arrested in the neighboring island of Montserrat.

“Minister Cort said that everything is being done to recapture the two men,” the statement said.

Barbados

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will lead a mission this year to meet with top ministerial officials and technical personnel in its member countries to seek their assistance in the advancement of better intra-regional air links to help boost tourism in the region.

This was one of the several recommendations coming out of the inaugural meeting of the CTO Aviation Task Force which took place at the regional tourism development agency’s headquarters in Barbados recently.

The recently appointed CTO Chairman, the U.S. Virgin Island Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, reported a successful inaugural meeting which discussed the cost of intra-regional travel, the economic impact of the decline in travel, improving the ease of passenger movement, and launching actions to improve the efficiency of Caribbean aviation.

Among the other recommendations, the Committee proposed a meeting between airline and airport operators within the first few weeks of the New Year and a region-wide meeting of transportation ministers and commissioners in the first quarter of 2013.

Grenada

Grenadian authorities say they have launched an investigation into a bogus marriage scheme involving men from the Middle Eastern countries and local women.

“We are conducting an investigation and these notices are part of the process,” an official of the Ministry of National Security said.

The notices, placed in a weekly newspaper, and naming at least six people, indicate they should “contact the Ministry of National Security for further information in order to show cause on or before March 31, 2013 why the Minister of National Security should not exercise his right to do so,”

Recently the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) also issued a notice calling on 12 Grenadian women to contact the office immediately.

FIU head Senneth Joseph said the “notices are interlinked and its part of an investigation.”

Officials say the marriage of convenience scheme involved foreign men paying a significant amount of money to women in order to acquire Grenadian citizenship. Last October eight members of the Syrian community in Grenada were accused of falsifying documents in which they claimed they were married to Grenadians in an effort to obtain Grenadian citizenship. The suspects, including a businessman, were arrested following a year-long investigation by the FIU.

Guyana

The Guyana government has criticized the decision by the opposition to introduce legislation aimed at repealing the benefits afforded to former heads of state.

A bill to repeal the Former President’s (Benefits and other Facilities) Act had its first reading recently in the National Assembly and follows a promise by the opposition grouping, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) during the election campaign last year that it would seek to repeal the legislation.

Government’s Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira described the move as vindictive, and exposes an unacceptable of small-mindedness.

APNU legislator Carl Greenidge had tabled the motion in April last year with legislators agreeing to the establishment of a special select committee that would examine the benefit packages of constitution office holders including the president. She said since the setting up of the Committee in October last year, no meeting has been held.

The APNU and the AFC control 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly. The Guyana Constitution guarantees a past president a pension, which is equivalent to seven-eighths of the current president’s salary.

The Former President’s (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act of 2009 also makes provisions for benefits including medical staff, security guards, gardeners, drivers, motor vehicles and duty-free concessions.

Haiti

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has disputed claims by the United States and Canada that the French-speaking Caribbean Community (Caricom) country is not a safe place to visit.

“We would like to reassure the tourists, the Diaspora, people who want to visit, Haiti is one of the safest destinations that they could visit,”Lamothe told reporters, noting that the latest figures from UN Office on Drugs and Crime show that in 2010 Haiti had a recorded murder rate of 6.9 for every l00,000 people.

The rate is close to one-quarter of Jamaica and less than half of the neighboring Dominican Republic.

UN officials, however, said that statistics are always subject to “under-reporting and under-recording.”

The travel advisory warned travelers arriving from the U.S. “were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport” and at least two U..S citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents in 2012.”

In updating its travel advisory on Jan. 2, Canada told its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution due to high crime rates” especially in certain slum neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince.

Jamaica

Jamaica police said that they had no proof linking the relatives of eight-year-old British visitor, Imani Green, who was shot and killed by a lone gunman recently, to illegal activities on the island.

“We are not ruling out the influence of lottery scamming playing a role in the shooting, but we have not said the family is scammers, neither the ministry,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police, Devon Watkis.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting has blamed the pervasive lottery scam for the murder of the girl, who was shot at a bar in the northern parish of Trelawny. Three other people were also injured.

Bunting blamed the incident on “a dispute among persons in and around the community involved in the perennial lottery scam” and that the lottery scam is responsible for more than 100 deaths across the island. He, however, assured that young Imani’s death was being investigated at the highest level.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government says that while it is anxious to bring closure to the wage and salary negotiation involving public servants, it is not going to endorse salaries that would further affect the economic situation and force the island into the clutches of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a nationwide radio and television broadcast recently, Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, who is also the finance minister, said the crux of the issue that faces the government is the ability to meet the demands of its 9,500 workers for increases in wages by 15 percent, spread over three years.

Public sector trade unions have rejected an offer of zero per cent increase and a one-time payment of EC$1,000

Anthony said the current proposal by the trade unions would increase the government’s wage bill by an estimated EC$55 million annually, while the back pay associated with this proposal would cost about EC$40 million, “leading to a worsening of the current deficit of close to EC$100 million for this financial year,”

“It also means that for every ensuing year, government would have to borrow an extra EC$55 million just to meet the increase. This is clearly a path that a responsible government should not take,

“We still have the chance to avoid going to the IMF, but this will involve some very tough decisions. It will involve rebalancing our expenditure and taking steps to ensure that we borrow only for high-return capital projects,” Dr. Antony said.

Suriname

A week after former president and presidential adviser Jules Wijdenbosch revealed while on a recent visit to Amerstardam that gold deals to be signed with the United States-based mining firm Newmont and Canadian mining firm IamGold could yield over US$2.5 billion in investments, recent media reports indicate that the deals could be worth US$1.2 billion and US$1.5 billion.

According to the StarNiews, parliamentary approval is being awaited on the deals that would see the American multinational investing US$1.2 billion in the Merian area in eastern Suriname, while IamGold is expected to commit about US$1.5 billion in Brokopondo.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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