Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council on Human and Social Development (COHSOD) is urging regional governments to tighten legislation dealing with children amid concerns of growing incidence of violence against them.

A statement issued recently after a two-day meeting in Guyana said that the ministers viewed with “grave concern” the alarming prevalence of sexual abuse of children within the region.

CARICOM governments at their recently concluded meeting in St. Lucia has also raised the issue of violence against children and COHSOD said that it had reviewed the overwhelming evidence documented in recent studies that points to new and emerging forms of abuse against both girls and boys.

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque had referred to several studies which, he said pointed to “the jolting reality of increased violence against children and youth in spaces that generally were once considered safe havens.”

He said that the problem had threatened to erode all of the gains that the region had achieved over the years on the issue.

Bahamas

Authorities in The Bahamas rounded up more than 180 illegal Haitian immigrants after their wooden sloop ran aground near Mangrove Cay in Andros amid bad weather caused by recent Tropical Storm Isaac.

Director of Immigration Jack Thompson said a team of Defense Force and immigration officers did an aerial and ground search of the area for survivors and bodies. At last count, 181 immigrants were being housed at two temporary holding centers in Andros at the Mangrove Cay Catholic Center and a warehouse near the island’s loading dock, Thompson said.

He said one of the immigrants estimated that as many as 200 Haitians crowded onto the sloop and made seven-day journey from Cap Haitien to Andros.

Immigration officials suspect the Haitians paid to be smuggled out of Haiti but authorities are yet to identify the boat’s captain.

Bahamas

The Bahamas government is seeking to regain major control of the Bahamas Telephone Company (BTC) that had been sold by the former Hubert Ingraham government to the British telecommunications giant, Cable and Wireless.

Prime Minister Perry Christie told reporters that this new administration is optimistic that it would regain controlling shares in BTC and that he does not anticipate a drop in revenue of the company if and when Cable and Wireless agrees to his request. He said the people who will lead the negotiations for both parties have already been identified and that the talks should start soon.

Ingraham government had sold the majority shares in BTC after indicating that between 1966, the year of BTC’s creation and l992 it recorded profits of US$125.7 million with the government receiving US$10.56 million in dividend payments.

Ingraham said the process leading to privatization had not been taken hurriedly or casually and that damaged would been done to the country’s image and reputation if, after two attempts, it failed to privatize BTC.

Grenada

The U.S.-based international rating agency, Standard & Poor’s recently upgraded Grenada short term ratings indicating that the servicing of the island’s commercial external debt is not likely to feature in the campaign for a general election constitutionally due next year.

“Based on the application of the revised criteria, we are raising our short-term ratings on Grenada to ‘B” from ‘C’.

‘The stable outlook reflects our view that upside potential from recently enacted reforms balances downside risks from the external environment,” Standard & Poor’s said in a statement, adding “the outlook remains stable. We also raised our short-term ratings on Grenada to ‘B’ from “C0000000”.

The rating agency said that the stable outlook also reflects “our expectation that unlike some other Caribbean nations, the serving of the Grenadian government’s external debt will not become an issue in the general election, which must be called by mid-2013 and may be called this year.”

Haiti

The Haitian government has said at least 24 persons have died in accidents related to the recent Tropical Storm Isaac.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Office said in a report that the bulk of the deaths happened in the southeastern and western departments of the country.

Some of the victims were electrocuted and others died after objects fell on them. Three persons have been reported missing so far.

The death toll has steadily increased in Haiti after Tropical Storm Isaac passed over the southern part of the country and caused extensive flooding.

Haiti’s mountains are heavily deforested and so the country is prone to mudslides that sometimes turn fatal. The new deaths put the total death toll of Isaac at 29.

Jamaica

A drought in the United States, described as the worst in more than 50 years, has forced Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to issue instructions for urgent action to be taken to prevent a sharp increase in food prices in the country.

The drought is threatening the export of several commodities and has almost crippled the Midwest, and there are predictions that it will increase world food prices in coming months.

Industry Minister Anthony Hylton said the government is monitoring the situation.

He said the Ministry of Industry and Commerce as well as the Ministry of Agriculture have begun not only to monitor but to make some practical recommendations on how best to attend or address what could be the likely impact on food prices in Jamaica.

Suriname

The Commission on National Holidays has advised Suriname President Desi Bouterse to remove Good Friday, Divali and Id-Ul-Adha from the list of national holidays.

The commission made a clear distinction between memorial and commemorative days. Memorial days are mostly national, while commemorative days are celebrated by part of the population. In future, Good Friday, Divali and Id-aul-Adha must cease to be national holidays. However, people will still be able to celebrate these days selectively.

“People will tell their employer what religion they have and then apply for leave,” commission chairman Marlon Powell said.

With all the changes, the commission advises 13 national holidays and four commemorative days. Some national memorial days should he revised.

The commission advises to change the name of Independence Day into National Day of Independence and Cultural Diversity.

The commission advises government to have a permanent advisory board on national holidays to study all proposals for national holidays. Every five years national holidays should be thoroughly assessed to determine whether they are still valid.

Trinidad

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent best wishes to Trinidad and Tobago as the country celebrated its 50th Independence anniversary.

“On behalf of (U.S.) President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Trinidad and Tobago as you celebrate 50 years of independence this Aug. 31. Our two nations share a long history of friendship and cooperation going back to more than 200 years,” Clinton said in a statement.

“From the arrival of African-Americans to Trinidad after the War of 1812 to the drilling of Trinidad’s first oil well by an American engineer in 1866, to our military cooperation during World War II, this relationship has contributed to the development of both of our countries and the peace and prosperity of the world. We share a long tradition of democracy, respect for human rights, and diversity,” she said.

Trinidad

A businesswoman in South Trinidad became the first person to be charged with money laundering by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2000), when she appeared in the San Fernando Magistrate Court charged with committing over TT$2 million fraud.

Vicky Boodram, 30, owner of Boodram’s Travel & Tours and Ship Ahoy Cruises, was remanded in custody by acting chief Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan when she appeared on charges of fraud and forgery relating to purchases including a Mercedes Benz, house and land.

It is alleged that Boodram, a former singer, on or about Oct. 18, 2010, at San Fernando disposed of TT$2,045,000 in cash or in whole or in part by purchasing a house and land, knowing or suspecting it was the proceeds derived from her having committed a special offence, using forged documents to a bank, including job letters, in order to obtain a credit card.

She is facing five indictable charges, which arose out of two failed cruise packages.

Last year, Boodram along with her estranged husband, Ravi Arjoonsingh appeared in court on 20 charges of fraudulently receiving more than TT$5 million from customers for two cruise packages that failed to come off.

She was granted TT$6 million bail and Arjoonsingh $3.5 million. The cases are still pending.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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