Caribbean Round-Up

Caribbean

Caribbean officials have called for an immediate halt to a European shipment of reprocessed nuclear waste that will pass near the islands on its way to Japan, calling it a risk to the people of the region.

CARICOM trade bloc spokesman Leonard Robertson said regional officials were informed by British authorities that a radioactive waste shipment would soon pass through on the way to the Panama Canal.

For years, waste from Japanese nuclear reactors has been sent on specially equipped and armed ships to Britain and France for reprocessing, then returned for storage in Japan.

They pass through the Caribbean and South Pacific Islands, prompting fears from local officials that there could be an accident or even terrorist attack on a ship.

Bahamas

U.S. Casino Operator Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. has announced that it has pull out of a six-hotel resort proposal in the Bahamas worth more than $2 billion because it has taken too long to organize.

Harrah’s had agreed to team up with developer Baha Mar Resorts Ltd and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to create the mega resort along Nassau’s famed Cable Beach. But the U.S. casino company says the plans for the ambitious complex have stalled.

The mixed resort, planned for a 1,000-acre beachfront site that included an investment of more than $2 billion in its initial phase was expected to have a workforce of 10,000 people upon its completion in 2011.

Baha Mar Resorts said it was committed to moving forward with the resort project and challenged Harrah’s ability to “unilaterally terminate the contract.”

Barbados

Barbados-based low cost carrier REDjet has been granted permission by the Civil Aviation Authority of Trinidad and Tobago to fly to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

REDJet had faced obstacles to operate in T&T and Jamaica due to concerns about safety and predatory pricing.

The issue was settled recently when newly-appointed Transport Minister Devant Maharaj said in a statement, “the government is pleased to announce that the court action brought by the operators of REDJet against the Civil Aviation Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has been settled on terms which are mutually acceptable to all parties.”

REDjet has been flying between Barbados and Guyana since last month and will now add Trinidad and Tobago to its schedule starting from July 28. Jamaica has also given the airline clearance to operate in the country.

REDjet chairman Ian Burns told a news conference in Port of Spain, Trinidad last week that the airline now has all the licenses and all certificates to operate commercial services between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

Air fares are starting as low as US$9.99.

Haiti

United Nationals Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUS-TAH) military troops, supported by UN police and the Haitian National Police (PNH) recently announced an operation to crack down on gangs and other criminals in the slums of the capital.

The U.N. said Operation Phoenix will secure key areas in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.

More than 2,000 peacekeepers were sent into the neighborhoods of Cite Soliel, Martissant and Bel Air to disrupt criminal activity said MINUS-Tah Force Commander Major General Luiz Ramos.

Ramos said MINUSTAH wants to show the population that it remains determined to fighting crime in Haiti, in support of Haitian authorities.

“This will be a multi-day operation that is designed to provide long-term presence in these neighborhoods to reinforce trust and confidence between residents,” he said.

Jamaica

Jamaica is seeking about $300 million in private investment to help revive an island-wide railroad system that it suspended almost two decades ago.

Transportation Minister Mike Henry said the government will announce next month whether the project is viable.

The government said in a statement recently that temporary train service between Spanish Town and Linstead in the eastern region during a month-long trial has so far been successful

Henry said more than 2,000 passengers are taking the train daily.

He said the government is still tallying how much revenue the trial has generated.

The government temporarily activated the train after closing one of the region’s main roads for a water and sewerage project.

Nevis

The main opposition, Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) said it is not accepting the results of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) where the incumbent Nevis Reformation Party (NFR) won three of the five seats contested.

Opposition Leader Mark Brantly said, “our view is that the NRP has not won the elections at all. There are countless voters who have presented themselves and are swearing to affidavits to say that they were denied their right to vote… we have not conceded defeat.”

Preliminary results show that the NRP won the recent election in a replay of the 2006 poll when it won three seats in the eight-member NIA.

Brantley said people had become “very concerned” about the results, adding “the island is extremely tense and even the NRP celebrations have been muted.”

The NRP has not commented on the allegations.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he will donate the EC$200,000 he got from a defamation case against a radio station to charities.

Gonsalves recently reiterated a promise he made several years ago to donate to charity monies awarded to him from the case.

The legal battle with Eduardo “EG” Lynch and BDS Limited, owners of Nice Radio began eight years ago when Lynch, host of the opposition New Democratic Party’s radio program, accused Gonsalves of using public funds to finance a trip to Rome for members of his family.

The defendants have lost three appeals and the Court of Appeal, in the most recent judgment, ruled that they pay Gonsalves damages of EC$140,000, $40,000 in costs and five percent interest from the 2008 date of assessment.

“This first one is for charity but anything after that is going to the Ralph Gonsalves retirement fund,” Gonsalves said.

Trinidad

Embattled former FIFA vice-president Austin “Jack” Warner has lost the lion’s share of his Works and Transport Ministry in the Trinidad and Tobago government.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had split the ministry and appointed Senator Devant Maharaj as minister of transport.

Under the new structure, Maharaj will now control 12 of the 14 relevant state boards, leaving Warner with two.

Warner has now been assigned authority of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) and the National Maintenance, Training and Security Company Ltd (MTS) and he is also responsible for the Program for Upgrading Roads Efficiency (PURE).

Warner, who was at the centre of a FIFA bribery scandal recently resigned from the world governing football body as vice-president.

He told the media although his ministry has been downsized he was prepared to work for the country.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has agreed to meet with leaders of the trade union movement, who are planning to shut down the country if the government does not remove the five percent wage cap from the negotiations.

But she has made it clear that she cannot agree to any preconditions.

She was responding to a letter delivered to her office by union leaders on July 7, following a protest. They gave a two-week ultimatum to meet with them or there will be industrial unrest in the country.

Acknowledging the union leaders’ right to represent their workers, the prime minister called on them to recognize the right of the government to represent the interest of all the people of the country.

Persad-Bissessar said it has always been her approach to negotiate “in an atmosphere of cordiality and encourage an open-mindedness, so as to allow for better understanding of the issues before us.”

She said as prime minister, she strives to make decisions that are always in the best interest of all citizens.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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