Caribbean Round-Up

Barbados

Barbados has the highest life expectancy in CARICOM, according to a report released by the United Nations Population Fund.

The report, “State of World Population 2012,” was sent out recently in the lead-up of the expected birth of the planet’s seventh billionth inhabitant.

Barbados had an average life expectancy of 77 years, with 74 years for males and 80 for females.

Next on the list were Belize, the Bahamas and Grenada. Outside of CARICOM, Martinique had an even higher rate, at 80.5.

Not included in the rankings were Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda.

Haiti

Police say they have detained a Haitian lawmaker whose name surfaced on a list of inmates who fled the country’s main prison when the earthquake devastated the island last year.

He was held after his flight from France landed at the capital’s airport.

The detention of Deputy Arnel Belizaire marks a rare instance of a government official being jailed in Haiti.

He was taken in for questioning because his name appeared on a list of the 4,200 inmates who set fire to the national penitentiary the day of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

Belizaire was elected to Haiti’s parliament in a March 20 run-off more than two and a half years ago.

It is rare of police to detain or arrest lawmakers because their positions as officials typically give them immunity. Criminal investigators must formally request the immunity to be lifted before the official can be questioned.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s Finance Minister Audley Shaw wants an Association of Debt Managers formed in the Caribbean to negotiate with trading blocs.

The minister said donor nations and organizations are shifting from agreements with individual regional countries, nine of which are among the most heavily indebted in the world and the Caribbean must organize.

He argued that the formation of the association will create an opportunity for counties in the region, not only to exchange information on critical matters, such as debt management, but also to exchange technical expertise, information flows and establish joint ventures and partnerships.

Jamaica

Caribbean and African groups representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people have warned of a “real risk of serious backlash” against members following Britain’s threat to cut aid to countries that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.

And they have collectively called for British Prime Minister David Cameron to revise the threat.

A statement issued by dozens of groups and individuals said: “The decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and border social justice movement,” adding that such sanctions would sustain the divide between members of its community and the broader civil society movement.

The groups have urged Britain to expand aid to community based and lead LGBTI programs, support national and regional human rights and mechanisms and support the entrenchment of LGBTI issues into broader social justice issues.

Cameron says those receiving UL aid should “adhere to proper human rights.”

Forty-one of the 54 Commonwealth countries have laws banning homosexuality.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia High Court has ordered state-owned Radio St. Lucia and the privately-owned Helen Television System (HTS) to pay EC$250,000 (US$94,000) each to the Deputy Director of Corrections Victoria Alcide in a landmark defamation case.

The defamation case surrounds an unsigned letter that was circulated in August last year making sexual allegations against the senior official. The two media houses disclosed the contents of the letter.

Alcide told reporters that she is still unaware of what fueled the story and no one contacted her about the letter which was also sent to various government departments.

Radio St. Lucia is yet to comment on the judgment, while HTS said it will issue a statement soon.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called for the strengthening of partnerships with Australia and the Commonwealth as a whole.

She made the call during bilateral talks she held with Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard in Perth, when she addressed the opening of the Commonwealth Business Forum held in Perth recently.

In a joint statement that was released by the Office of the Prime Minister in Port of Spain, Trinidad Persad-Bissessar and Gillard reached consensus on several issues of mutual interest in their respective roles as outgoing Commonwealth chairperson and incoming chairperson.

They welcomed the progress made by members of the United nations towards an arms treaty and committed themselves to work together to conclude the agreement in 2012.

The two leaders expressed confidence that their governments’ joint cooperation in an arms control workshop, that was held in Trinidad and Tobago in January, had built up support for the treaty in CARICOM and confirmed their support for future collaboration during a CARICOM workshop on arms control which takes place in March 2012.

Gillard noted that T&T is Australia’s largest trading partner in the Caribbean.

Persad-Bissessar and Gillard both welcomed “a vibrant and growing” bilateral trade and investment relationship between their countries.

They both pledged to promote women in political leadership as an important issue in both the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad and Tobago will be will be holding more bilateral talks with member states, in a bid to relax the requirements for Commonwealth citizens entering the country for business or holiday.

Persad-Bissessar made the remarks at the recent closing press conference of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which was held in Perth, Australia recently.

She said the goal of this initiative was to establish a bridge between the Commonwealth and South America.

Also being explored is the possibility of direct flights from South Africa and India to Trinidad and Tobago.

The prime minister said CHOGM heads have agreed to a series of actions geared towards maintaining the relevance of the Commonwealth and to ensure its effectiveness in responding to contemporary challenges.

Persad-Bissessar was in Australia to hand over the Commonwealth chair to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has lifted the 11:00 p.m.-4:00 a.m. curfew in Trinidad and Tobago but the State of Emergency (SoE), which was declared on Aug. 22 will remain in effect.

She made the announcement in a nation-wide television and radio broadcast on Monday night.

The prime minister said the curfew which governed some 17 crime “hot spots” across the nation and expanded to three nautical miles of the coastline will be lifted with immediate effect.

However, she said the SoE will continue and reviewed continuously.

The end of the curfew comes two months and 17 days after the declaration by the prime minister, which first started from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. in selected “hot spots” across the country.

She said a war was waged against the criminals and now they are left trembling.

Persad-Bissessar paid tribute to the protective services for this, saying, they took the nation from a “brink of disorder and chaos” and restored law and order.

The business community had been urging the prime minister to lift the curfew since they were losing money and the economy was declining.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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