Caribbean Round-Up

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has joined other regional leaders in congratulating Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow on his re-election to office following the recent general elections.

Barrow’s United Workers Party (UWP) won 17 of the 31 seats in the general elections, seeing its two-thirds majority in 31-member House of Representatives reduce to a slender three-seat margin over the opposition People’s United Party (PUP), led by Francis Fonseca, which won the remaining 14 seats.

It is the first time the UWP has won re-election.

Barrow, a 61-year-old attorney, who was recently sworn in by Governor General Sir Colville Young in the capital, Belmopan, said he was disappointed with the general election’s results.

Barbados

Low-cost regional carrier REDjet has suspended all flights around the Caribbean as of March 16, 2012.

The suspension of the flights is “until further notice,” the Barbados-based airline said.

REDjet Chief Executive Officer Ian Burns said despite the airline performing well, the company could no longer continue to provide a service.

Burns said REDjet was not subsidized with assistance from any government.

The airline started operating from Barbados to Trinidad in July last year and offered flights to nine other destinations around the Caribbean.

“Our aircraft and our dedicated staff are performing extremely well and we are willing and able to continue to provide affordable transport across the Caribbean and beyond,” he said.

The company said it is hopeful it would receive assistance from governments to allow it to get recently approved routes established.

The airline said that the suspension was only a “temporary cessation of flights.”

Barbados

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is scheduled to sit in Barbados from April 16-19 to hear court matters.

The itinerant nature of the CCJ means the court is able to sit and conduct matters in any country, which is signatory to the agreement establishing the CCJ.

The CCJ will hear four matters originating respectively from Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica.

All attorneys will appear at the Court of Appeal of Barbados where the court sittings will be accommodated.

Barbados

Trinidad and Tobago, the third largest producer of natural gas in the Americas, is to complete its first international gas pipeline to northern neighbor Barbados (270 miles away) within the next 18 months.

Barbados Prime Minister Frenduel Stewart told journalists in Suriname where he attended the Heads of Government conference recently.

While there he held bilateral talks with his Trinidadian counterpart, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on the margins of the CARICOM mid-term summit.

Stuart said Persad-Bissessar told him her cabinet had already approved the plan to build the pipeline, expected to be one of the largest civil engineering works in Caribbean history.

Jamaica

Jamaica recorded a 26 percent increase in export earnings between January and September 2011, compared to the corresponding period of 2010, according to the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) president Vitus Evans.

Speaking at the JEA’s recent breakfast forum at the Wyndham Hotel, New Kingston, Evans said data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica showed that total exports for the period stood at just over $1.3 billion.

The figure, he pointed out, included a 13.8 percent increase in non-traditional exports, which yielded $524 million in earnings. This was an increase of approximately $64 million over the corresponding period in 2010.

Despite the increases, Evans said the trade deficit between Jamaica and the rest of the world widened by approximately 30 percent, with imports for the period under review valued at some $4.8 billion. This, he said, was an increase of just over $1 billion or 29 percent.

Against this background, Evans underscored the need to “increase our export earnings” to reduce the trade deficit and build the economy.

Suriname

A witness in a mass murder trial testified recently that President Desi Bouterse, then an army officer and coup leader in l982, was present at the murder of 15 opponents of Bouterse’s then military government some 30 years ago.

The witness, Ruben Rozendall, a former army officer, is also facing murder charges in the trial before a military tribunal.

Under Bouterse’s command, Rozendall and 14 other officers overthrew the Henck Arron administration in a coup on Feb. 25, 1980.

During his testimony, Rozendall called on Bouterse and the other eight plotters who are still alive “to tell the truth.”

He told the military court that Bouterse was also present when he brought in ex-minister and media owner Andre Kamperveen.

Kamperveen was among the 15 killed, while Derby was the sole survivor of the massacre.

Bouterse has repeatedly denied being present in Fort Zeelandia when the detainees were shot.

Suriname

CARICOM leaders have expressed concern that the “unprecedented legal measures” adopted by the Exim Bank of Taiwan for the repayment of a multi-million dollar loan by Grenada could amount to “economic strangulation” of the Spice Island.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day Inter-session summit in Paramaribo recently, the regional leaders said they had been “briefed on the severe strain on the economy of Grenada” as a result of the efforts being made by the Taiwanese financial institution to recover loans amounting to US$28 million.

Taiwan has filed injunctions in the United States courts with cruise ships and airlines servicing Grenada, demanding that whatever money due to Grenada should be paid to a special account in the United States.

Taiwan claims that the loan made through an export bank in Taipei was negotiated by former Prime Minister Keith Mitchell between l997 and 2000 before it suddenly broke off diplomatic relations in favor of Beijing.

Last month, Grenada said that it was seeking funds to keep the cash-strapped Maurice Bishop International Airport open after airlines began withholding payments to the authority in keeping with the United States Court order and authorities say that some cruise ships have already served notice they may be forced to drop Grenada from their itinerary.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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