Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

The Caribbean, which ranks second behind sub-Saharan Africa for HIV/AIDS infection rates, has led the world in reducing the number of new infections between the periods 2005-2001, according to a new United Nations report released here. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said an estimated 2.3 million adults and children were newly infected with HIV in 2012, representing a 33 percent reduction in annual new cases compared to 2001.

In the same time period, new HIV infections among children fell 52 per cent to 260,000 in 2012, UNAIDS said, noting however that deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in the Caribbean fell by 48 per cent. UNAIDS said the Caribbean has led the world in reducing the number of new infections with the rate falling by 42 per cent between 2005 and 2011.

“Certainly in the region, there has been substantial progress in the past 10 years or so, not only in treatment availability but also in prevention of transmission from mother to child,” said Michel de Groulard, a senior program advisor at UNAIDS Caribbean office in Trinidad and Tobago.

“In many of the countries, we’re working in, there definitely has been an increase in support from regional agencies,” she said. But Ayarza said more than 13,000 people became infected with HIV/AIDS in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, bringing the total number of cases to 230,000 in the region.

Barbados

Barbados has confirmed four cases of influenza A H1N1 including one death.

A statement from the Ministry of Health said that results from the 10 samples sent to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) last week had confirmed the cases. It said the other six samples were negative for the H1N1 virus.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand said Barbados has an adequate supply of Tamiflu which is recommended for persons in high risk groups, and those who need hospitalization.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is expecting a shipment of the seasonal influenza vaccine which contains the H1N1 virus and will be offered to frontline workers in the public sector and persons in high risk groups.

In light of the outbreak, the senior health official said that the Ministry of Health would be intensifying its public awareness efforts through various media as a way of sensitizing the public about the do’s and don’ts in relation to Influenza A H1N1.

Dr. Ferdinand is encouraging members of the public to cooperate with public health guidelines as was done during the 2009 Influenza Pandemic.

Influenza A H1N1 is caused by a virus that was first brought to the attention of the global community in 2009. The Caribbean Public Health Agency recently reported that the H1N1 virus is the most commonly identified influenza virus circulating in the Caribbean region.

Grenada

Prime Minister of Grenada Dr. Keith Mitchell has announced that his administration will “make the necessary changes” to parts of the Electronic Crimes Bill that critics say could impede free speech.

Mitchell made the comment recently at a public forum in rural St. Andrew’s in response to a question from a member of the audience.

“I have agreed to make necessary changes, after having discussions with members of the local and regional media, so that there will be no doubt about the intention of the country,” Mitchell said.

Some critics of the new law have said section six, which says people can commit a crime online by providing false information that is “grossly offensive,” or which causes “annoyance,” “insult” and “ill will” will have a chilling effect on free comment online. They have also argued that it could result in the effective return of criminal libel, which was abolished last year. “Criminal libel has gone and is not coming back,” Mitchell said.

Haiti

The United States Department of State says Jamaicans and Haitians are among nationals not eligible to apply for the 2015 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2015). In making the announcement recently, the department also pointed out that natives of the Dominican Republic are also barred, as along with Jamaica and Haiti more than 50,000 immigrants came to the United States in the last five years.

The U.S. Congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203 (c) of the INA provides a maximum of $55,000 diversity visas each fiscal year to be made available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Jamaica

Lawyers for jailed entertainer Vybz Kartel recently accused the police of trying to prejudice their client by issuing a press release about their investigations into the murder of music producer Patrick ‘Roach’ Samuels.

“This news release was obviously calculated to prejudice the pending bail application and trial of [Adidja] Palmer, set in the Home Circuit Court for the Nov. 18 2013,” the father and son team of Tom and Chris Tavares-Finson said in a news release.

According to the attorneys, the police news release “contains the obvious implication that by possessing these items of ‘contraband’ Palmer was in some way connected to the murder of Samuels.

The police had said in their release recently that they raided Kartel’s cell and found a DVD player, an Apple iPod and two cellular phones.

They also said that they found a note written by a prominent entertainer with instructions. The seizures were made, according to the police, as they intensified investigations into Roach’s murder.

St. Lucia

The small opposition Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM) is calling on the government to ban gaming facilities and slot machines, which it claims are having a destabilizing effect on the lives of St. Lucians.

The LPM has accused both the ruling St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP) and the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) of hypocrisy in dealing with the situation.

“Apparently, the failure to remember the positions taken while in opposition is becoming the new norm in St. Lucian politics,” the LPM said, making reference to the position adopted by the SLP on gambling when in opposition.

“Many will remember the first national discussion on the introduction of gambling during the late 1980′s and early 90′s. Many will remember too, how vehemently the SLP opposed the introduction of gambling back then, and in effect, casting itself as the party of “Moral Conscience.”

The party said there seems to be the need to place “greater value on the perceived revenues that gambling is generating, than on the social implications that it is presently having on the nation.

“Sadly, the poor have always been the ones to get trapped in the vice of gambling. The menial wages which they earn, and which no doubt is insufficient to support their families, have driven them to the slot machines in hopes of striking it rich under the supervision of the state.”

The LPM said that an unregulated gaming system in the country, has contributed to a breakdown in social order, and thereby pose a national predicament.

Suriname

The director of the Office of National Security in Suriname says that the son of the country’s president had been quietly removed from his post at a counter-terrorism unit long before his arrest and extradition to the United States.

Melvin Linscheer says in a radio interview that Dino Bouterse was involved in the start-up of the country’s Counter Terrorism Unit in 2010. But Linscheer says he was removed amid public criticism soon thereafter. His removal was never publicly announced. The official spoke in an interview recently with state-owned Radio SRS.

Trinidad

Ravindra “Ravi” Ramrattan, 30, the 2002 President’s Medal winner and former Oxford scholar, was among 68 persons killed in a terror attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya recently.

The graduate of Presentation College, Chaguanas, had made Kenya his home over the past four years, working there, according to his family, as a research economist with Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya, an independent trust established to support the development of inclusive financial markets in the African nation.

Ramrattan was also the manager of the Centre of Branchless Banking. He had gone with friends to the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi to shop for a barbecue lime they were to have later on, according to an account on social networking site, Facebook.

But when masked gunmen stormed the mall, sending hundreds of shoppers scrambling for cover, Ramrattan got separated from his friends. The Islamic militants sprayed the mall with gunfire, and explosions were heard, following which reports emerged that there were fatalities. Ramrattan was one of them, his body was found recently.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government says it is moving to address the increase in murders on the island.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting said that efforts would include accelerating the passage of relevant legislation, enhancing the passage of relevant legislation, enhancing the mobility and technical capability of the force and increasing police checkpoints, among other measures.

In a report to Parliament, Bunting said that for the period June 30 to Aug. 31, there were 251 murders, at an average of four murders daily. He said this represents an increase in the average daily murder rate was 2.9. “It also represents an increase on the 197 murders that occurred in the corresponding two month period in 2012.

Bunting said that in order to address the increase in the murder rate, the Portia Simpson Miller government would accelerate the passage of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Organized Criminal Organizations) Bill, more commonly referred to as the ‘Anti-Gang’ Bill. He told legislators the government would soon table an amendment to the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act so as to empower the government to waive jurisdiction over Jamaican nationals involved in drug trafficking outside of our territorial waters.

He said the amendment would allow international partners, with Jamaica’s permission, to prosecute Jamaican drug traffickers intercepted in international waters on Jamaican flagged vessels.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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