Caribbean Round-Up

Caribbean

The organizers of the world’s marquee tourism awards program have praised Caribbean destinations for attracting higher visitor arrivals despite the economic difficulties in key source markets in Europe and North America.

The World Travel Awards (WTA) said it will use its VIP ceremony next month in the Jamaican resort city Montego Bay to acknowledge the role of leading travel brands in navigating the Caribbean through the global downturn.

“The region has shown remarkable resilience to overcome the challenges of recent times, with an exceptional focus on excellent customer service and facilities that are second to none,” said WTA founder and president, Graham Cooke.

Out of more than 2,000 organizations, an “elite few” are vying to win the top honors in the WTA, including six countries competing for the title of “Caribbean’s Leading Destination” – Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos Islands, the WTA said in a release.

The WTA awards hailed as the “Oscars of the travel industry,” will take place at Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island.

Antigua

Eminent jurist Dame Bernice Lake, QC, 78, died recently after a brief illness.

Before making her mark in constitutional law and human rights, Dame Bernice had a budding career in the diplomatic service for the West Indies Federation. After it collapsed she pursed studies in law and began a distinguished career spanning more than 40 years.

Though she was born in Anguilla, she made Antigua her adopted home where she practiced from her chambers, Lake & Kentish.

Dame Bernice was the first woman in the Eastern Caribbean and the first University of the West Indies graduate to be bestowed the distinguished title of Queens Counsel.

In 1975, she was the chief architect of the Anguilla constitution and was part of the team that framed Antigua and Barbuda’s constitution in 1981.

Bahamas

The Dengue Fever threat in The Bahamas could be over in just about two months as the summer rains begin to subsidize, the deputy chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health Delon Brennen said.

He told a press conference at the Ministry of Health, that while dengue hemorrhagic fever has symptoms of bleeding associated with it, one strain of the disease can also cause a drop in a person’s platelet count, which can also induce bleeding.

Brennen insisted that Bahamians in general, along with the Department of Environmental Health Services’ vector control team, have been doing their part to keep the mosquito population at bay during this summer’s dengue outbreak.

He confirmed that there have been some reported cases of Dengue but there were no deaths.

Guyana

Guyana’s Parliament has rejected a proposal that would have made it a crime to knowingly infect someone with HIV, saying it would lead to further discrimination and discourage voluntary testing.

The country has one of the highest HIV rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an estimated 13,000 people infected out of a total population of 745,000.

Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy praised the recent vote, saying such a law would only worsen the stigma of HIV and encourage people to avoid testing.

The United Nations’ Caribbean office congratulated legislators on making what it called “a mature and measured decision.”

Opposition parliamentarians did not vote on the proposal because of an unrelated boycott.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s efforts to create more jobs for its citizens got a major boost recently with the official opening of the Sir Richard Branson Center of Entrepreneurship, in Montego Bay, which is committed to growing business in the Caribbean.

The center, established by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, at a cost of US$3.5 million, is operated by Virgin Unite, the non-profit arm of his Virgin Group and Virgin Holidays, and is also supported by independent benefactors, including Chris Blackwell, founder of Islands records.

The Branson Center, which is equipped with the latest computer technology, opened its doors to its first 14 budding entrepreneurs recently making a commitment to support their drive for success in business.

It will provide them with a launch pad for their businesses and create a platform for job creation across the Caribbean.

Speaking at a function Branson noted that the foundation hopes to use the center to create hundreds of jobs and grow businesses for the sustainability of the Caribbean.

St. Kitts

An Asian national who slipped through several Caribbean and Latin American countries was held at the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts when he presented false documents to immigration on arrival.

Commissioner of Police CG Walwyn said trained immigration officers apprehended the suspect who was in possession of an Interpol-reported stolen passport and a fake driver’s license from a North American country.

He said officials from the Immigration Department are adhering to the instituted security measures at the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport that when incorporated with behavioral training, which immigration officers have received, makes it impossible for persons to get by undetected.

“Such was the case when the suspect attempted to deceive an immigration officer by presenting documents that bore a reasonable facsimile of his likeness,” he said.

The suspect has been arrested and is being held in custody while security forces continue their investigations.

St. Vincent

If U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks are to be believed, the policewoman who in 2008 accused St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of rape was offered US$185,000 in cash, low-income house and an opportunity to study abroad in return for her dropping the charge.

However, a source close to the alleged victim has denied that she was paid off.

The officer swears she has not received any money.

However, four cables from the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados to Washington detail the alleged covert maneuvers as lawyers sought justice for the cop, who claimed that Gonsalves sexually assaulted her on Jan. 3, 2008 while she was on duty at his official residence in Kingstown.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said he is innocent and the charge was politically motivated.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams in February took over and discontinued the private criminal complaint in the High Court. The judge later denied an application for judicial review of the DPP’s decision.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago will move to strengthen ties with China with a Trade and Investment Office to be established in China as part of a proposed Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in the People’s Republic of China.

This was announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the opening ceremony of the third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Forum at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain recently.

She said the Trinidad and Tobago government recognizes that there is a need for a facility to promote an even stronger business relationship between the Caribbean and China.

In his address, Chinese Vice-Premier in charge of Economic, Energy and Financial Affairs, Wang Qishan said that China, being a developing country “has provided assistance within its capability to Caribbean countries without attaching conditions.”

He said in the next three years, the Chinese government will take six policy measures to deepen cooperation with Caribbean countries.

Turks and Caicos

At least l0 bodies were recovered from the seas off the Turks and Caicos Islands after the captain of a smuggler’s boat forced illegal Haitian migrants into an overloaded boat recently.

Government spokesman Kendol Morgan said that 10 migrants drowned while being transferred to shore by a smaller, wooden vessel that had illegally entered the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

He said the bodies of five Haitian women and five men were recovered by search-and-rescue teams.

More survivors were being questioned by police but it was not immediately clear if the captain of the smuggler’s boat was captured.

Haitians have been coming to the British Overseas Territory seeking jobs but most of them arrive from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere illegally by boat.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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