Caribbean Round-Up

Caribbean

Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Justice Hugh Rawlins said judges of the ECSC and the Court of Appeal have borne the burdens of the court system workload and that not even their colleagues in England have such a heavy workload.

“It is known that High Court and Court of Appeal judges of the ECSC are called upon to shoulder the workload burdens which judges in no other country bear. Every day we are seeing spiraling litigation in our courts. Through it all, in the main, the judges of our courts have carried the burden in adverse circumstances, true to the oath, which we took when we embarked on this journey,” Justice Rawlins said at the opening of the new law term in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) jurisdictions of the court.

Justice Rawlins said the vast majority of judges manage to keep current in their delivery of judgments even through illness, which is often brought on by the stress of the workload and deprivation of family and social life.

However, he said there are instances where judgments are inordinately delayed and this practice is unacceptable.

Bahamas

Two former police officers who retired as top cops have separately blamed the Bahamas government or the judiciary for the country’s overwhelming crime problems.

Paul Thompson, who retired from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) as an assistant commissioner of police, insisted that the long delays in The Bahamas court system are to blame in justice and therefore crime on the streets.

‘The problem with the court is the long delays with cases taking three to four years to reach the court. You are going to have a problem with witnesses remembering things and problems finding witnesses,” he said.

Former police deputy superintendent and politician, Errington “Bumpy” Watkins, insisted that the government is to be blamed for the level of crime in the country. He lamented, however, that the police force is continuously blamed for crime.

Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest recently suggested that some judges have contributed to the crime problem because they are too lenient in granting bail.

The government is the constant target of political criticisms for the increasing crime problem.

Barbados

Negotiations are expected to start soon on the proposed natural gas pipeline between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

This was disclosed by minister in the Barbadian Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Darcy Boyce, as he addressed the media at Government Headquarters recently.

“We have got the draft agreements and prepared the governmental agreements and the host country agreements, and there have been discussions between potential buyers and potential sellers of the gas and that process has been going quite well,” he said.

Boyce said a committee has been set up to prepare for negotiations and had included the management of the Barbados National Oil Company, the Barbados Light and Power Energy Division, Finance Ministry and several consultants.

He made the comments after an agreement had been signed between the Energy Division and the Enterprise Growth Fund for Bds$6 million to be used through the Smart Energy Fund.

According to him, the program should help to reduce the country’s high energy bill by lowering its dependence on fossil fuels.

Grenada

The Trade Union Council (TUC) is calling on the Grenadian government not to reverse a decision to raise the minimum wage in the country by December.

The Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce said it wanted the Tillman Thomas administration to review the plans to increase the minimum wage, arguing that recession-hit businesses cannot afford to meet the proposed wages.

But TUC vice-president Chester Humphrey says the government cannot flip-flop on this matter saying that the Grenadian people are in support of it.

Recently, the government said it had accepted a recommendation that allows for an increase in the minimum wage for domestic workers and security guards. As a result the monthly pay for domestic workers will now be EC$750 (US$277), while security guards will receive a l00 percent increase in the minimum wage that has now been moved to EC$8 (US$2.96) an hour.

The government has indicated that it plans to increase the minimum wage of 12 categories of workers.

Haiti

Supporters of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide recently held a rally marking the 20th anniversary of the military coup that toppled the two-time leader during his first term in office.

Anysto Felix of Aristide’s Family Lavalas political party said the 1991 ouster of the populist leader was a rupture in Haiti’s long struggle for a more democratic society.

The rally is the first of its kind since Aristide returned to his homeland last March after a seven-year exile in South Africa. A rebellion in 2004 ousted the former Roman Catholic priest during his second term.

Thousands of supporters greeted Aristide upon his return earlier this year, but a crowd of only about 200 people showed up for the rally.

Haiti

Five months after he was sworn in as Haiti president, Michel Martelly now gets the green light to form his government after the Senate recently voted in support of his third nominees for the post of prime minister.

The lawmakers voted by a 17-3 margin with nine abstentions, to support Dr. Garry Conille, a gynecologist who served as an aide to former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

He also worked for the United Nations since l999 in countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia and for a few months in Niger.

Conille is a seasoned worker and holds a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate from the State University of Haiti.

Jamaica

Jamaica dance hall deejay Vybz Kartel has been charged with murder, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

A news release from the police said that the charges against the deejay, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, were made following an interview recently by detectives from the Major Investigation Task Force in the presence of his attorneys.

It is alleged that on Monday July 11, 2011, Palmer, along with other men, conspired to murder Barrington Burton, a 27-year-old businessman/promoter of a Gregory Park address in St. Catherine.

Burton was murdered while he was standing with friends along Walkers Avenue in Gregory Park, police said.

Kartel is expected to make his second appearance in a court later this month.

Jamaica

Plans to build the largest holiday resort in the Caribbean could be delayed by opposition from local residents, some of whom say their families have lived on the land since the end of slavery in 1834.

The Spanish-owned Fiesta hotel chain announced in March that it would expand its Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort in Point, Hanover, beginning this year.

The first US$280 million phase will comprise 900 rooms, including 245 Royal Suites, on land acquired in 2005, the resort’s general manager, Dimitris Kosvogiannis said at the time.

Eventually, the company hopes to add another 2,000 rooms, making it according to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett “the largest mega tourism entity in the Caribbean” with more than 3,000 employees.

But some 200 people who live at Point are disputing the ownership of the land have recruited the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice to help them.

Residents argue that the state had no right to sell the land to the resort six years ago, said Rachel Ustanny of Jamaicans for Justice.

The community is still poor, with no electricity or running water but the location offers stunning views of the coast.

Residents say they received eviction notices after the sale in 2006, but have not been contacted by anyone from the hotel company since or received any offer of compensation.

Trinidad

Customs and Excise Department in Trinidad and Tobago has launched an investigation into the illegal sale of diesel fuel which has cost the government over TT$1.5 billion.

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine in making the announcement said investigations into the illegal bunkering – the sale of subsidized fuel to non-nationals – remains a “major problem in Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said this year local motorists would have benefited from a TT$4.8 billion fuel subsidy when they bought gasoline and diesel at the pumps.

The government pays for 80 percent of the subsidy and energy companies pick up the remaining 20 percent.

But Ramnarine said that after his ministry started investigating the illegal bunkering a few months ago, it was estimated that almost 40 percent, or about $1.5 billion, has been lost through the illegal sale of diesel fuel.

The bunkering racket has been going on for much longer than was initially believed.

He said that data showed that in the past four years, demand for diesel fuel increased by 40 percent, while the demand for gasoline increased by only six percent.

The subsidized fuel can be sold from between TT$8 ($1.30) to as much as $25 (US$3.90) up the Eastern Caribbean.

During the State of Emergency police seized more than 90,000 gallons of diesel stored in containers at Sea Lots in Port of Spain on Aug. 23, 2011.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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