Caribbean Round-up

Caribbean

U.K. Minister for the Caribbean Jeremy Browne MP recently visited three Caribbean islands – Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica – to reinforce Britain’s ties and advance key British government priorities in the promotion of trade, security, sustainable development and environmental protection.

His first stop was Trinidad and Tobago where he met with Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan.

He also attended a reception with key figures from the Olympic and Paralympics Committees as part of his ministerial portfolio for overseeing London’s hosting of the Olympic and Paralympics Games in 2012.

Browne said he was delighted to be the first British minister to visit Trinidad and Tobago under the U.K.’s coalition government.

‘The British government is determined to strengthen its relations with Trinidad and Tobago, as one of our key Caribbean partners,” he said.

“We have a great deal to offer our overseas friends and allies, such as Trinidad and Tobago, in terms of goods and services, he noted.

Trinidad and Tobago is the U.K’s largest export market in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Guyana

Guyana Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee said that the man killed in an explosion at the Stabroek Market, Georgetown on Jan. 5 in which 19 others were injured was not involved in any criminal activities.

Rohee told a press conference that the police also confirmed that the man, Hilton Lazarus, who died in the blast, was not involved in any crime.

The explosion from a grenade killed Lazarus, who police said did odd jobs for vendors in the area.

Police said parts of the fragmented grenade have been recovered by the team of investigators.

Rohee said that for some time now they have been looking for numerous illegal activities taking place in and around the Stabroek Market and the need to clean up the area.

Stabroek Market square included the establishment of a number of illegal rum shops, harboring of persons of unsavory character, trafficking in drugs, vending of stolen articles, most of which have illegal electrical connections from the Guyana Power and Light.

Haiti

Thousands of Haitians turned out for the anniversary of the earthquake in the capital Port-au-Prince, which killed more than 250,000 on Jan. 12 last year.

Hundreds of white balloons were released into the air, buglers played taps and Haitians sang their national anthem to mark the moment, which destroyed the capital.

The magnitude 7.0 quake left the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country reeling, wrecked tens of thousands of homes, hospitals, government buildings and national symbols such as the Roman Catholic cathedral and the presidential palace.

A year later, nearly one million Haitians remain in tents or other temporary shelter.

The anniversary was described as a “day of reflection” to mourn the thousands who perished. Haitians walked miles to reach the churches throughout Port-au-Prince, the capital where priests and ministers extolled survivors to be thankful they were alive and to never forget the dead in at least one case, a minister who slammed the international community for failing to achieve significant reconstruction.

Survivors filled the streets four hours. Men and women stopped in their tracks, raised their hands and shouted prayers. Others wailed and sobbed the trauma still fresh in their minds.

St. Lucia

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a combined US$8.19 million in emergency assistance for St. Lucia to cope with the economic consequences of Hurricane Tomas.

The financial assistance consists of about US$5.85 disbursement under the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), and US$2.3 million under the Fund’s Emergency Natural Disaster Assistance (ENDA).

Hurricane Tomas struck St. Lucia on Oct. 30, 2010, causing loss of life and significant damage to the nation’s road network, water supply and agriculture sector.

The latest but still preliminary estimates suggest that total damages amount to US$336 million, or about 34 percent of GDP.

Murilo Portugal, IMF deputy managing director said; “St. Lucia has been severely affected by Hurricane Tomas, which caused loss of life and significant damage to infrastructure and agriculture. The reconstruction efforts are expected to have a significant fiscal and balance of payment impact, mainly in 2012, posing difficult policy challenges. It will be important to maintain macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability during the rehabilitation.”

St. Lucia

Opposition leader Dr. Kenny Anthony has slammed the governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for what has been described as “dancing away” from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Anthony, a former St. Lucia prime minister, who was chairman of the Legal Committee of the CCJ when the Court was being discussed, has chided the two largest CARICOM economies for their change of heart in relation to the regional appellate court.

The St. Lucian opposition leader is worried about the future of CARICOM saying that the prospects for realizing the full benefits of creating a Caribbean Community, as envisaged by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, is becoming bleaker and bleaker if “we cannot be committed to compelling a case for the region-wide endorsement.”

St. Vincent

Three candidates for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in last month’s general election have brought a total of 10 private criminal charges against Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and three of his ministers in relation to “different character assassinations” during the election campaign.

NDP senator Vynnette Frederick has brought two complaints against Gonsalves and another two against Minister of Health Cecil Mckie who defeated her in West St. George.

Nigel Stevenson, who won in South Leeward, has brought two complaints against former area representative Senator Dr. Douglas Slater, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. NDP chairman Dr. Lincoln Lewis had filed four complaints against Minister of Housing Clayton Burgin who defeated him in East St. George.

They are due to appear in court later this month to answer the charges.

Attorney for the NDP Kay Bacchus-Browne said these are private criminal complaints under the Representation of the People’s Act, which, if proven, will disqualify the persons “we complained about for five years from even voting or from being a member of parliament.”

She noted that if found guilty, the persons can be fined $278 and sentenced to jail for one year.

Trinidad

A week after Trinidad and Tobago’s first President Sir Ellis Clarke was laid to rest, tributes continue to pour, the latest coming from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 of England, Pope Benedict XVI and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Queen in her message said, “It is with great sadness that I have learnt of the recent death of former Governor General and first President of Trinidad and Tobago Sir Ellis Clarke. Sir Ellis was a true statesman who served his country with distinction. His expertise in constitutional matters helped to form the modern Trinidad and Tobago, which I have fond memories of visiting last year.”

Pope Paul and Harper both sent letters of condolences to president Max Richards.

The Canadian PM called Sir Ellis a “true statesman and a veritable architect” in the development of T&T.

Sir Ellis, 93, who suffered a stroke died two weeks later, was given a state funeral by the government.

Trinidad

While police have recorded 22 murders so far for the first two weeks of January, National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy said that there had been about a 10 percent reduction in serious crimes in Trinidad and Tobago last year under the new People’s Partnership government.

The minister was at the time outlining in parliament several new crime-fighting measures to be implemented this year to reduce the incidence of crime.

He told the House of Representatives, “Our intention is to reduce crime and the fear of crime.”

Sandy said statistics show that last year, 19, 917 serious crimes were reported and the previous year, there were 21,932. He said there was a decrease of more than 2,000 crimes, which represents a 9.19 percent decrease.

Sandy said among the new crime-fighting initiatives to be implemented would be the installation of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in every police vehicle and linking every police station with an appropriate technology platform; more frequent deployment of joint operations using land and sea assets; establishment of a National Security Operations Center to co-ordinate various activities and the merging of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) and the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA).

The new People’s Partnership government, who promised to bring crime under control after assuming office in May last year has been under fire for the spiraling murder rate over the past eight months.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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