Caribbean Roundup

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

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda government is moving to implement the death penalty following the daylight brazen murder of a Guyanese mother of five at her workplace in the capital recently.

National Security Minister Dr. Errol Cort said the government would soon be utilizing all “necessary legal processes needed to give effect to the death penalty” reminding citizens that it remains a part of the law of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Also, I will be taking to Parliament a Criminal Justice Bill, that will seek to not only increase the penalties for gun-related and other serious crimes, but also seek to create a number of new offenses and stiffer penalties in an effort to further control criminal activities taking place in the country,” Dr. Cort said in a statement.

He noted that over the past few months, there has been an escalation in gun related crimes in the country and because of this trend, a special Task Force on Serious Crime was established on Jan. 5 this year.

The national security minister said that the public outcry from the murders have not gone unnoticed by the government, reiterating, “that all available public resources will be utilized in an effort to curb this escalating criminal behavior forthwith.”

The last hanging in Antigua took place in 1991.

Grenada

Former Grenada Prime Minister Tilman Thomas says he is prepared to step down as leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and work with the new leader, to be chosen by the party.

Thomas said so in an interview with the Trinidad Guardian hours after his party’s historic defeat in the recent general election, which saw the New National Party (NNP) led by Dr. Keith Mitchell win all 15 seats.

“The leadership is not something that I want to hold on to…once somebody comes forward, I am prepared to let that person take over the responsibility of leadership of the party,” Thomas was quoted as saying.

Thomas said he was prepared and committed to work with that person to ensure the party is returned to power in the shortest possible time.

He said the leadership issue would be determined at a party convention later this year.

Haiti

The United Nations has rejected a claim for damages on behalf of more than 5,000 Haitian cholera victims and their families, citing diplomatic immunity.

The claim was filed in November 2012 by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti – a Boston-based human right group.

It argued that the UN and its peacekeeping force are liable for hundreds of millions of dollars for the facility to adequately screen peacekeeping soldiers, citing studies indicating that infected soldiers caused the cholera outbreak.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the UN informed representatives of the group’s rejection recently.

Nesirky said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also called Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision “and to reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.”

Jamaica

The unemployment rate in Jamaica has increased to 13.7 percent, according to latest statistics.

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) says this in an increase of 0.9 percentage points when compared with October 2011.

The data is contained in the Labor Force Survey which was undertaken by STATIN in October 2012.

It says up to October 2102 the employed labor force stood at 1,088,200.

STATIN says the survey shows that the largest declines in employment levels were recorded in the Construction, Wholesale and Retail, Motor Vehicle and Equipment and Manufacturing sectors.

It noted that these declines were partially mitigated by higher employment levels in Agriculture and Hotels and Restaurant Services.

St. Vincent

CARICOM has expressed concern over a confrontation between St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and a group of foreign journalists.

In a communique issued after the end of the CARICOM Inter Sessional Heads of Government conference in Haiti recently, the CARICOM Secretariat said: “The heads of state and the government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) received a report from the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the manner in which he was reportedly accosted and tackled on an aircraft and physically impeded by a team of individuals purporting to the members of the British media.”

“At the time of the incident, Prime Minister Gonsalves, his wife, and Ambassador Ellsworth John were on a LIAT airline enroute to the Twenty-Fourth Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads and State and Government of CARICOM,” the communique added.

In expressing grave concern of CARICOM leaders with the manner in which Gonsalves was reportedly confronted, the Secretariat said: “while fully supportive of the freedom of the press and the vital role played by a free, active and responsible press in governance and development, the Heads of Government emphasized that the dignity of the office of head of state or government within CARICOM is equal to that of any other nation, as are the attendant security concerns and expectation.”

“This dignity and security concern of a head of state cannot be violated by unidentified representatives of a foreign press who, for whatever reason, expected a level of access to CAIRCOM heads of state or government that they would not receive from heads of state and government in their countries of origin.”

Trinidad

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she is unaware of any decision to set up an elite police unit – the New Flying Squad Investigation Unit (NFSIU) – comprising of retired police officers from a similar unit which was disbanded some three decades ago.

Speaking to the media on her return from Haiti where she recently attended the CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting, Persad-Bissessar “categorically” stated that the issue of any new Flying Squad was never discussed with her nor brought to the National Security Council or to the Cabinet.

She stressed that any initiative such as the creation or revival of any police unit must be reviewed by the National Security Council, the Cabinet and must be fully considered and endorsed by the commissioner of police.

“We will not support the establishment of any rogue police or para-police unit or security entity, which is not within the jurisdiction and control of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and, where necessary, the control of the Police Service and the Commissioner of Police,” she said.

The prime minister said she has requested a report on the allegations from National Security Minister Jack Warner on the allegations of the existence of the NFSIU.

Minister Warner and acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams have both denied the establishment of a new Flying Squad. Warner is insisting that there was no agreement to revive the new unit.

A former member of the disbanded Flying Squad, retired Inspector Mervyn Cordner claimed that he had approached Minister Warner to revive the Flying Squad, which was under the command of the late crime-fighter Randolph Burroughs, who later became commissioner of police.

Cordner alleged that he recruited a number of retired officers, who worked with that unit for about three months but to date have not been paid. The controversial unit was closed down in December last year.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The former president and CEO of an upscale jewelry manufacturing company was fined nearly US$1 million for smuggling black coral into the U.S. Virgin Islands recently.

Ashu Bhandari was also jailed for one month, complete 300 hours of community service and pay US$230,000 to the University of the Virgin Islands for projects to research and protect black corals.

The sentence marks the end of one of the largest federal case involving illegal trade in wildlife.

Bhandari pleaded guilty in November last year to one count of false classification of goods to hide shipments of internationally protected black coral that his former company, Gem Manufacturing Inc. received from Taiwanese suppliers.

He was the last defendant to be sentenced in a case that spawned a three-year investigation that also sent two of his business partners to prison.

In 2011, Bhandari’s company was ordered to forfeit dozens of jewelry items, sculptures and more than 6,000 kilograms of raw black coral. The total value is about US$2.17 million.

Black coral is an organism that thrives in deep ocean waters and grows on rocks like a plant. It can live for hundreds or thousands of years and can be harvested for jewelry and other purposes under strict trade regulations.

Haiti

Amnesty International wants former Haiti President Jean-Claude Duvalier to either face a court hearing over charges of human rights abuses or be arrested, amid fears that he may flee the country using a newly-granted diplomatic passport.

At a recent hearing, Duvalier – who is also known as “Baby Doc”- refused for the third time to face the court. The judge of the Court of Appeal has rescheduled a hearing for later this month and has instructed the public prosecutor to bring him to that hearing.

The hearing was due to examine an appeal brought by victims of human rights violations against the January 2012 decision by an investigative judge not to put Duvalier on trial for violations of human rights so serious they amount to crimes against humanity – including torture, killings and disappearances committed during his time in office.

“Jean-Claude Duvalier cannot be beyond the reach of justice,” said Beatrice Vaugrante, an Amnesty International delegate, who was present at the hearing. “The authorities in Haiti have the duty to do all they can to ensure he faces the courts for the systematic abuses that took place during his time in office. If he continues to avoid the hearing he must be arrested,” she said.

Jamaica

Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington has described as “shameless, heartless and senseless” the murder of retired deputy superintendent of police, Denzil Boyd, 63, who was shot and killed at his home in the Corporate area recently.

The murder of the well-known crime fighter has sparked anger among members of the police force, with the Police High Command making it clear that those responsible will be found and brought to justice.

Police said Boyd has just returned home from church when two men approached him at his gate and asked if he knew of places to rent in the area.

The men then surprised the ex-cop by opening fire, shooting him in the face, neck and shoulder.

Family members, who went to investigate, found him lying in the road.

His attackers fled in a black car with tinted windows. The gunmen also took Boyd’s gun.

Boyd, who was rushed to hospital, was pronounced dead on arrival, is the second retired policeman to be gunned down in the past six months.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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