Caribbean Round-Up

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda will try to buy two parcels of land from a development company owned by jailed Texas financier Allen Stanford, said Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

In his New Year’s message Spencer said he has ordered the island’s airport authority to hold negotiations with the Antigua-based Stanford Development Company to arrive at a reasonable price for six acres of land where the government plans to build a new airport.

Spencer said Stanford bought 25 acres of government land around the airport in the eastern Caribbean island in February 2003 at a concessionary price of roughly 50 cents per square foot.

Stanford, a one-time billionaire who was once one of the most prominent businessmen in the region, has been jailed in the U.S. since being indicted on fraud charges in June 2009 by a federal grand jury in Texas.

He faces 14 counts, including wire and mail fraud.

Antigua

Police in Antigua say one of two men convicted in the slaying of a honeymooning Welsh couple has stabbed a fellow prison inmate.

Kaniel Martin, 24, stabbed the other inmate with a homemade knife.

Police Sergeant William Holder said that Martin was charged with the assault in the attack, which occurred recently.

The 21-year-old victim is hospitalized with serious injuries.

Martin and Avie Howell were convicted last July for the 2008 killing of Benjamin and Catherine Mullany of Wales.

They were sentenced in December to three consecutive life sentences for the murder of the couple and a shopkeeper on the island during a crime spree. They face trial in two other deaths.

Barbados

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the Barbados government to stay away from funding any solutions in the restructuring of the collapsed insurance group CLICO Holdings.

In its latest Article IV Consultation report on Barbados, the IMF directors encouraged the government to minimize fiscal costs in any plan to resolve CLICO and to seek a private sector solution in a statement issued last month.

The IMF noted that the CLICO failure underlines the importance of a coordinated regional approach to financial sector supervision and a mechanism for establishing a framework for crisis solution.

The directors noted that fiscal performance remained “under stress” especially in light of Barbados’ high public debt as central government deficit rose to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 8.2 percent of GDP in FY 2009/2010.

Moreover, Barbados remains one of the most highly indebted countries in the region with public debt at the end of the 2011 fiscal year standing at 117 percent of GDP, up from about 90 percent of GDP two years earlier.

Grenada

Five police officers charged with manslaughter in the death of a visiting Canadian resident were each granted EC$100,000 (US$37, 037) bail when they appeared in the rural St. David’s Magistrate Court before Resident Magistrate Nevlyn John.

The five constables – Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Rudy Felix, Kenton Hazzard and Wendell Sylvester will have to reappear on Jan. 27, 2012.

Scores of protests, some carrying placards and accusing the police of brutality marched outside the court building chanting for justice.

The officers were arrested and charged recently in the beating death of Oscar Bartholomew, 39, of Toronto, who was with his wife on vacation.

Relatives have accused a group of officers of beating Bartholomew into a coma recently after he mistook a plainclothes female officer for a friend and lifted her for a hug in front of a police station in the island’s southeast.

Bartholomew died of injuries at a local hospital a day after the beating.

Haiti

A presidential commission is urging Haitian President Michel Martelly to restore the nation’s disbanded army.

Valdimir Laguerre of the National Palace says the recommendation for the force came in a report.

Martelly was expected to restore the army through a decree in November but instead said he would form a panel to study the issue.

The restoration of the armed forces was one of Martelly’s campaign goals but has met with opposition from Western diplomats who say money would be better spent on the understaffed police force.

The army was disbanded in l995 because of its history of abuse.

St. Lucia

A British lawyer who quit her high-flying city career for a new life in the Caribbean has died after falling down a 100-foot cliff near her villa in St. Lucia recently.

Sarah Thomas, 46, reportedly lost her footing while picking herbs from the garden of her villa on Christmas Day.

She and her husband of five months, Kevin Thomas – a local man believed to be unemployed had returned home after attending an all-night party with him.

St. Lucia police said her death was an accident and they are not seeking suspects.

Thomas left her lucrative job as a managing director of tax advisers Alvarez & Marshall Taxland late last year to set up home in the village of Piaye with Kevin, 36. They met in New York, where he was working and she was on a business trip.

On Christmas Eve they went to an all-night party at Anchors Bar, half a mile from their million dollar cliff top villa.

Trinidad

The rate of inflation in Trinidad and Tobago continues to rise. The Central Bank said recently that the latest data from the Central Statistical Office showed that headline inflation, measured by the 12-month increase in the Index of Retail Prices rose by 5.7 percent in November, up from 3.7 percent in the previous month.

“The increase in the headline inflation rate was mainly attributed to higher food prices,” the Central Bank said in its repo rate statement.

“For the first time in six months year-on-year food inflation reached double digits – 12.3 percent in November,” the bank said.

This increase may have been the result of the flooding in some agricultural areas in late October and early November which impacted local supply and prices of fruits and vegetables, it said.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has promised to deal with corruption that surfaces in her government, as she rallied for greater unity in Trinidad and Tobago in her New Year’s message.

“There has been talk of corruption at home and this country’s reputation for corruption persists abroad,” she said.

“Over the years this country’s image has been severely tarnished. But my government is doing something about it. If corruption surfaces in this government I promise you to deal with it. I made an early commitment to transparency and accountability and I stand by that,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The prime minister said she will bring to bring Procurement Legislation to the Parliament this year as she promised and will work to strengthen transparency and accountability in government.

Persad-Bissessar also said she never expected to be forced to call a State of Emergency in 2011 but promised to reclaim T&T from the criminal element.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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