Caribbean RoundUp

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
AP Photo/Richard Drew

Caribbean

The European Union (EU) is providing US $8 million to boost agriculture in the Caribbean.

The funds are being provided under the tenth European Development Fund (EDF) Intra-African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Agriculture Policy Program for the Caribbean between the European Commission and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The agreement was signed by Guyana President Donald Ramoutar, who has lead responsibility for agriculture within the quasi-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) cabinet, the Delegate of the European Union (EU) to Guyana, Ambassador Robert Kopecky, Co-ordinator of IICA’s Regional Integration for the Caribbean Region, Gregg Rawlins and CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.

IICA is the principal implementing agency of the program on behalf of the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum), with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Cardi) and the CARICOM Secretariat as implementing partners.

La Rocque said the implementation of the program “comes at a time of significant challenges for the Caribbean in general, and the 16 states of Cariforum in particular.

The four-year program is specifically planned to further strengthen policy regimes and incentive schemes for agricultural small-holders across the region from the bulk of producers.

Antigua

Antigua-based news website, Caribarena , said it had parted company with a freelance journalist, who claimed gunshots had been fired at him as he left the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium following the recent cricket game between the touring Zimbabwe team and the West Indies.

In a statement posted on its website, the media house said after it carried the story on the incident, “the report caused a firestorm of discussion, suspicion, and queries”, which the freelancer was asked to address in a statement.

He chose to ‘respectfully decline’ to comment, or assist in any way in our internal inquiry into the matter,” Caribarena said, adding that it “prides itself on reliably informing and educating our readers.

“Credibility, integrity and willingness are just a few of the rocks within our foundation that we are building on and we will not be associated with those who appear to jeopardize that,” it said, informing subscribers that “effective immediately” it would no longer use the service of the journalist.

The incident had been condemned by the president of the Antigua & Barbuda Media Congress, Colin James, who said “this one certainly has come as a surprise and a shock to not only to media workers but it’s a complete shock to the entire society.”

In its original story, Caribarena quoted the un-named reporter as saying someone called out to him before gunshots were fired and that the journalist was unharmed, the driver sustained minor injuries from broken glasses.

Dominica

Dominican authorities say they intend to take a tough line, including legal action, against people who fail to pay taxes.

Comptroller of Income Tax Irwin Williams, speaking at the recent launch of the 12th annual Tax Awareness Week, said the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) would be moving aggressively against tax evaders and defaulters.

“I think it is a fitting time to inform non-compliant people that action will be taken against those who do not comply. All are encouraged to voluntarily pay their taxes when they are due”, he said.

Williams said the IRD would also be working with the appropriate authorities to ensure that people did not travel without a valid exit certificate.

He said the IRD was willing to negotiate with defaulters.

He gave no indication as to how much money was owned as a result of the non-payment.

Grenada

Grenada is still struggling with its debt repayments and it has asked creditors to give it leeway to restructure US$193 million debt that it say it cannot afford to pay.

“The global financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on the country and aggravated the severe debt overhang that continues to weight down our economy,” said new Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in a recently releases statement.

“It is now time for Grenada to confront the fact that it cannot continue to pay its debt on current terms,” he said.

Grenada would be the third Caribbean country to restructure its debt this year. Jamaica said on March 1 that about 99 percent of bondholders agreed to swap J$860 billion (US$9.1 billion) of higher interest local debt for lower yielding bonds. Belize is finishing negotiations on its second restructuring in five years, as missing a US$23 million coupon payment in August 2012.

Guyana

Police said the suspect held in connection with the murder of a 42-year-old United States army medical doctor, Max Kungel, had been found hanging in his cell.

They said Omesh Thakurdeen had been taken into custody as investigations continued into the murder of Dr. Kungel, whose body was found in the backdam in Corentyne, Berbice, Guyana recently with several gunshot wounds.

While in the cell at the police station a check was carried on the cell where Thakurdeen’s was kept in which he was the only prisoner. During the check in the early hours of the morning, he was found hanging by his shirt from the grillwork, a police statement said.

Media reports said Kungel and his sister-in-law arrived in Guyana on March 7 to participate in a religious ceremony in the observance of their grandmother’s first death anniversary.

Jamaica

The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) has become the latest public sector union to sign a wage restraint agreement with the Portia Simpson-led administration.

Previously, the teachers’ union had stated that it could not make such an agreement and as a result did not join other public sector unions, which signed the agreement with the government recently.

JTA President, Clayton Hall, said the teachers decided to relent given the circumstances facing the country. He noted that the wage restraint deal for the 2012-2015 came in the form of a package with other incentives.

He warned that although the JTA has joined the other groups in signing, it will remain strident in defending its members, adding that this will also be the last agreement to a wage restraint with the government.

St. Vincent

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is not pleased with the response of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to his complaint about the conduct of two of their journalists towards him last month.

“You have adopted the posture of an advocate in the cause of Messrs Paul Kenyon and Matthew Hill, the two offending BBC journalists. You were not seeking the truth from facts,” Gonsalves said in the March 5 letter to Tim Giles, editor of the BBC’s Panorama program.

Giles has responded to the letters sent by Gonsalves to Lord Chris Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, in which he complained about the “rude and unprofessional” approach of the two journalists when they “accosted” him on a flight to Barbados on Feb. 15.

The two journalists had asked Prime Minister Gonsalves to respond to an allegation that investor Daves Ames had gone to his office with a bag of money and left without it.

“It is plainly wrong for Mr. Kenyon to peddle a wholly unfounded allegation against me and in the process sully my good name and that of my office. His allegation is false. Further, the unprofessional manner in which he accosted me is surely improper,” Gonsalves said in the letter to the BBC chairman.

He further reiterated that he deserves the same level of respect accorded to any other prime minister in the world.

Trinidad

There was a “spike” in murders for the first two months of this year compared to last year but a decrease in serious offences.

This is according to Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Dr. Roodlal Moonilal.

He was at the time contributing to debate on the Defense (Amendment) Bill.

Quoting from police statistics, Moonilal noted there was a decrease in serious offences from the period January to February 2012, compared to January to February 2013, of 26 percent.

He said there were a 22 percent decrease in robbery, 34 percent drop in house breaking and burglary, 35 percent drop in fraud offences, 23 percent fall in general larceny and a 38 percent drop in narcotic offences.

Moonilal noted Government was not happy with the 26 percent fall because the homicide rate “is not acceptable” and there was an increase for the same period from 67 to 83 murders.

He said the Police Service was now focusing on homicides and also taking a new approach to crime data of monitoring daily, weekly and monthly and not just at the end of the year, to get the extra effort in dealing with criminal elements.

The Housing Minister noted the Bill, which seeks to grant soldiers police powers, was part of a multipronged approach to crime.

Trinidad

The United States Department of State’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy report has stated said the lack of support from the political leadership of Trinidad and Tobago has caused the fight against narcotics in T&T to be more challenging.

The report was also critical of several other Caribbean countries particularly Jamaica and Guyana in their war on drugs and trafficking.

“The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership,” the report stated.

“Additional reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers,” it said.

The US Department noted that beside the lack of support by the political heads there are also concerns that there is “insufficient and interagency co-operation and informing sharing,” the report said.

Trinidad and Tobago was described as having “porous borders” with direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada and the United States making it an “ideal location for cocaine and marijuana transshipment.”

“The government of Trinidad and Tobago has long-struggled to effectively coordinate and adequately fund its counter-narcotics effort,” the report said.

The U.S. Department of State reported that narcotics nor facilitate the production and distribution of drugs.

The report stated that the government did not encourage nor facilitate the production and distribution of drugs.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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