Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

A meeting of parliamentarians from around the region in Antigua & Barbuda later this month will see real examples of threats to Caribbean democracy ventilated. That’s according to Speaker of the House D Gisele Isaac, who said, “I proposed to the broader executive, instead of dealing with theoretical subjects as we tend to do, let’s look at the actual issues facing the Caribbean countries.”

Isaac also serves, along with Senate President Hazlyn Francis, as co-president of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Guided by the theme, “Challenges to Caribbean Democracy,” Antigua will host, from July 28 to Aug. 2, the association’s 38th Annual Regional Conference.

“In the Turks and Caicos Islands we had Michael Misick removed as premiere; we had McKeeva Bush in trouble in Caymans; we had Jack Warner in Trinidad. So instead of skirting the issues, I figured this year we would actually look at corruption and the cost of corruption.”

Isaac said one session of the meeting will look specifically at the New National Party’s clean sweep of all 15 seats in the Grenada House of Representatives. “Sure they were elected by a democratic process, but the democratic process always envisioned that there would be an opposition. So what happens when there is no opposition to government,” she queried.

The longstanding motion-of-no-confidence against St. Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas inspired the first topic of the conference, “Losing Confidence in the No Confidence Motion.” The House Speaker said she found the entire no confidence motion situation there “mind-boggling.” Isaac said she hopes the conference would be am “intellectually stimulating” exercise.

“Other topics on the agenda are: The arguments for/against devaluation, profit and loss: the costs of corruption and, how TVET education can save Caribbean economies. Over 50 participants, inclusive of both government and opposition representation, are expected to participate in the six-day conference.

Antigua

The regional airline, LIAT, recently assured the travelling public that it is committed to improving the level of service offered by the airline even as disgruntled pilots warned of “several vexing issues”.

The airline did not specifically refer to a statement by the Chairman of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA), Carl Burke, that the union had been forced to call an emergency meeting to seek a mandate from its members on several vexing issues.

Burke, speaking on radio recently, had even warned of possible industrial action recently if salary negotiations for flying the new ATR aircraft as well as a new schedule were not discussed with the company.

The company’s two new ATR 72-600 aircraft commenced commercial service earlier this month with an additional four due to be added by the end of this year. LIAT confirmed that talks were taking place with the union and there were no disruptions in flights.

LIAT’s chief executive officer, Ian Brunton in a statement recently sought to give assurance to the travelling public in light of a recent “Open Letter” of complaint to the airline by a long-standing LIAT customer, Arthur Hicks.

Brunton said that the company had been in touch by telephone with Hicks and that “it is important to point out that the substantive letter was not by way of a complaint, but a light-hearted Facebook entry to his friends”.

But Brunton said the letter was publicized when “someone posted the Facebook entry as a letter in a newspaper in the British Virgin Islands.

“To our employees, our millions of friends and valued customers, we have taken note of all your comments and suggestions. We appreciate all of them and express profound thanks,” Brunton said, noting that “in the face of serious challenges, our focus remains on improving customer experience and achieving profitability.”

Bermuda

One of Bermuda’s top hotels, Grotto Bay, has been fined US$8,000 for illegally employing two Americans. Recently, the hotel was charged with five counts of employing non-Bermudians without the permission of the Minister of Home Affairs, but the prosecution offered no evidence in three of the counts after hotel manager JP Martens offered guilty pleas on two counts.

Prosecutor Cindy Clarke told the Magistrates’ Court that on the morning of April 3, the Department of Home Affairs received information that unauthorized people were working at the hotel, which is close to LF Wade International Airport.

When officials arrived, they found several large artificial plants in the hotel’s dining room. As they looked on, they saw William Peck, a U.S. citizen, move one of the artificial plants to a pillar. The officials spoke to Martens, who said he was unaware permission was needed for Peck and a second U.S. citizen, Samuel Rosenberg.

“Mr Rosenberg was the interior designer and admitted he was requested to freshen up the main building for the upcoming season,” Clarke said. “He came to consult on the placement and installation by hotel staff and tradesmen. The project was falling behind on time, and he started to lend a helping hand and instructed the fellow consultants to help if possible.”

The next day, immigration officials received a report that the men were again working at the hotel and returned to find artificial plants scattered throughout the lobby.

Defense attorney Christopher Swan told the court the incident was a simple misunderstanding and Martens apologized for the incident. He said as soon as the mistake was pointed out, efforts were made to get immigration permission for the workers. “I think they have all learned a lesson in this regard,” Swan said.

Guyana

The authorities here are conducting investigations following the discovery of more than 4,000 pounds of compressed marijuana hidden in a container at the John Fernandes container terminal on Water Street, Georgetown recently.

The drugs, packed in several bags, were found among a shipment of cars, which entered the country from Japan via China and Jamaica. Officials from the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) made the discovery early yesterday morning.

The police said the container came into the country recently on board the vessel MV Vega Sachsen and was expected to leave a few days after. It is suspected that the drugs were placed in the container while the vessel was in Jamaica since the seal on the container was tampered with. Anti-narcotics officials are investigating this latest bust while the importer of the container and broker are being questioned.

Haiti

Haiti is receiving $35.5 million from the Inter-American Development Bank to improve drinking water services in the Caribbean nation’s gritty capital of Port-au-Prince. The grant will support a program created in 2010 with the help of the bank and the Spanish Cooperation Fund in Water and Sanitation in Latin American and the Caribbean. The program aims to cut losses from leaks, clandestine connections and unpaid bills. It also seeks to improve revenue to cover operational expenses.

The effort will be carried out by Haiti’s national water and sanitation agency and a water company that serves the Port-au-Prince area. Haiti’s water and sanitation system is severely lacking. The country’s tattered infrastructure has helped spread the water-borne disease of cholera, which officials say has killed thousands.

Jamaica

A Virginia court has sentenced David J Rainsberger, the former security chief at the United States Embassy in Jamaica to a year in jail after he accepted gifts in exchange for helping a Jamaican deejay gain a United States visa. Rainsberger, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this year to accepting two luxury watches worth approximately US$2,500 from the Jamaican entertainer, identified only in court documents as “DB” in addition to free admission to nightclubs, backstage access to concerts and a birthday party hosted by the musician.

The musician had previously been unable to obtain a visa because of accusations of criminal activity. The incident occurred while Rainsberger, then a member of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston from 2009 to 2011.

In addition to the charge of receiving unlawful gratuities, Rainsberger also pleaded guilty in an Alexandria, Virginia court to making false statements to the United States government on a national security questionnaire, which is required to maintain his security clearance.

The prosecution had sought a two-year jail term for the former security chief, while the defense sought home detention.

St. Lucia

Tourism officials in St. Lucia are taking in stride what’s being viewed as disparaging comments made by Barbados minister for tourism Richard Seales on the country’s tourism product. Seales has been quoted in the media as saying that St. Lucia’s tourism product lags behind that of Barbados by some 30 years.

While the statement has not triggered an official response from the government, Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilius insists that he will not be drawn into a verbal battle with his Barbadian counterpart over the remark.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Donovan Williams said St. Lucia has chosen to ignore the remarks as the focus is not to tear down another Caribbean nation but to build a competitive market that would attract an increasing number of visitors from all over the world.

“We have to focus on how we make our product more competitive, we have had a recent study from the IFC which indicated some of the ways we can maximize our potential to make us an even more competitive destination.

“St. Lucia’s dominance in the market has actually increased. If you look anywhere, travelers are looking for options and alternatives and that has not happened in a long time and the pressure the Barbados minister has been under to explain why St. Lucia has surpassed them in terms of visibility, it really speaks to the fact that we are out there promoting.”

The tourism director said the many accolades St. Lucia has received over the last few months are sufficient proof that the island’s marketing and promotion strategies have paid off.

Trinidad

Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed yesterday denied the government had any involvement in the current problem between journalists at the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian and their employer.

“As far as the government is concerned, the current issue is purely an internal one involving the reporters and management of the St. Vincent Street daily newspaper and so disassociates itself from this issue, “Mohammed said in a statement.

“It cannot be emphasized enough that there has never been, nor exists now, any threat to the media of this country in the execution of its function from this administration. All the government has ever asked for is that the media tell the truth and be fair.”

His statement came in the wake of the walkout of two Guardian journalists recently. The journalists cited political interference as the reason for their action. There was also a media report yesterday claiming that two government ministers had met with members of the Guardian’s board sometime before the walkout.

Yesterday, Mohammed strenuously denied any such meeting took place.

“The government also wants to place on record that at no time did any of its ministers visit or meet with management of the Guardian,” he said.

The minister said freedom of the press as enshrined in the Constitution was vigorously and steadfastly endorsed by the People’s Partnership Government, which has always displayed complete support for the media.

“The government recognizes, too, that any blow to freedom of the press is a direct attack upon our democracy,” he said, adding, “The government reaffirms its commitment to a free press, regarded world- wide as the cornerstone of any democracy”.

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda has now been deemed the 18th fattest developed country in the world. The ranking is by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which specifically described Antigua and Barbuda as developed as opposed to middle-income.

The FAO found that the twin island state is ranked 18th among all countries worldwide with 25.8 percent of its adult population obese. Trinidad and Tobago took the lead for the Caribbean ranking 6th, with 30 percent of its population being obese. Close behind Antigua and Barbuda was St. Vincent and the Grenadines at 21 with 25.1 per cent adult obesity and Dominica 22nd with 25 per cent.

Mexico with 32.8 percent of its adult population obese topped the chart, knocking off the United States as the World’s Fattest Developed Nation. The United States has a rate of 31.8 per cent. The FAO says urban lifestyles and rising income levels, coupled with malnourishment among the countries’ poor, are helping to make the global obesity rate so rotund.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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