Caribbean Round-Up

Caribbean

Thirty-three countries recently participated in the region’s first full-scale tsunami warning exercise as part of United Nations-backed efforts to test and strengthen the region’s defenses against such disasters.

The exercise dubbed Caribe Wave 111 aims to test the early warning system for tsunamis and other coastal hazards set up in the region in 2005 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) established under the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The exercise was based on a fictional earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale and located off the United States Virgin Islands.

It highlighted the effectiveness of tsunami warning mechanisms, weather forecast offices, national coast guards and other relevant offices.

Similar exercises have taken place in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. In the Caribbean, at least 75 tsunamis have been recorded in the past 800 years with more than 3,500 deaths attributed to them.

Barbados

Marston Gibson judicial referee in New York is tipped to be Barbados’ next chief justice.

Gibson said he remains committed to returning home for the position whenever the legal hurdles are cleared.

The Barbados House of Assembly recently passed the amendment in the Supreme Court of Judicature for Gibson to be appointed as CJ.

Gibson said he is currently in an invidious position as the lone Black judicial referee in the New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County and have worked there since l998.

Guyana

The Guyana government said it opposes both anti-gay discrimination and advocacy of gay “lifestyles.”

Gay activists called the statement inadequate and said if the government wanted to lessen anti-gay discrimination it should repeal laws that ban gay, sex and cross-dressing. The ban on cross-dressing is being challenged in the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

Haiti

Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean is recovering from a gunshot wound to the hand while campaigning recently for a fellow performer who is running for the presidency.

The shooting occurred in the Delmas section of the capital, Port-au-Prince said Joe Mignon, senior program director for Jean’s Yele Foundation. Jean was treated at hospital and later released, Mignon said.

Jean, a native of Haiti, who rocketed to fame as a member of the hip-hop trio The Fugees, is in his home country to support fellow musician and friend Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly, one of two presidential candidates in a run-off vote, which took place recently.

Recently, Jean took part in a Martelly concert in downtown Port-au-Prince that sought to win over votes.

Jamaica

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that there is a 42 percent reduction in murders in Jamaica.

He made the announcement while speaking at a Regional Law Enforcement Anti-Corruption Conference in Kingston.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported that while not stating numbers, Golding said the 42 percent reduction equaled 150 fewer murders compared to last year.

He said while the reduction in the number of murders is a step in the right direction, there is a still long way to go to reduce crime to an acceptable level.

Jamaica

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) is urging parliament to enact legislation to protect the human rights of all Jamaicans and provide a framework to reduce discrimination against all persons, including lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender.

The group, in a news release said they also wanted provisions made for persons with disabilities and persons affected by health conditions like HIV in the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.

Parliamentarians are expected to cast their votes on the Charter of Rights Bill this month.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding who piloted the bill in the Lower House of Parliament said the vote will be taken and then the provision will be sent to the senate.

J-FLAG maintained that lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender persons continue to be victimized by members of the public and the state and therefore wants them covered under the non-discrimination clause.

Trinidad

Government is expected to sign an agreement with a German chocolate manufacturer for the purchase of Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa directly from farmers.

Food and Production Minister Vasant Bharat in making the announcement said he was expected to sign the agreement this month, which would negate the need for a broker between the manufacturing companies and the farmers.

Bharat said Trinidad and Tobago possessed the “biggest gene pool of cocoa in the world and that dates back to the Imperial College of Agriculture that started in the 1920s.

He said T&T cocoa is perceived as one of the best of the world.

Trinidad

The second session of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup by members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen has begun in Port of Spain recently.

The commissioners headed by Barbadian Sir David Simmons and including Sir Richard Cheltenham QC and three other members are investigating the circumstances surrounding the July 27, 1990 insurrection led by Imam Yasin Abu Bakr.

Bakr led 113 members of his religious organization in a bloody take over of the parliament building in Port of Spain and Trinidad and Tobago Television in Maraval.

Last July, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the enquiry, adding she hoped it would bring some closure to all those who suffered through the attempted coup.

During the first phase of the hearings in January this year, former Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson and former National Security Minister Joseph Toney were among those who gave evidence.

A third session is expected to run from April 26 to May 6.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia opposition party has called on the government to implement new measures to help consumers cope with high fuel prices.

Gasoline prices currently stand at EC$14.24 (US$5.27) and diesel at EC $14.58 (US$5.43).

Opposition Leader Kenny Anthony said the situation is even more disturbing when “we consider that government is currently earning over EC$3.00 on every gallon of gas sold at the fuel pumps.”

The price of gasoline is also currently high in Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean islands.

Suriname

Authorities in Suriname say that police have seized a large quantity of cocaine and marijuana and that several suspects were held.

The Anti-Narcotics Squad and the Narcotics Intelligence Unit at two different locations seized a total of 115 kilos of cocaine allegedly smuggled from Guyana into Suriname.

Four Surinamese nationals between the ages of 20 and 40 years, including one woman were arrested.

The cocaine was valued at $700,000.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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