Caribbean RoundUp

In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette.
Associated Press / Nam Y. Huh, File

Caribbean

Finance ministers from several Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Guyana, are among the 48-member countries are expected to attend the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB) annual meeting in Paraguay in March.

The IDB Group comprises the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which provides resources and financing for public sector, the Inter American Investment Corporation and Multilateral Investment Fund, which provides donations and resources to foster innovative small-scale projects in the region.

The event will gather close to 500 private sector leaders and high-level government representatives from the Americas, who will discuss key issues to promote sustained economic growth rooted in rising productivity, the IDB said.

Barbados

Barbados has banned smoking of e-cigarettes in public places as the government is moving to clamp down on the health problems associated with tobacco.

This piece of legislation is among new restrictions imposed on this type of cigarette, including the sale to minors in the Health Services Amendment Bill 2017, which was recently piloted by Health Minister John Boyce in the Parliament.

Boyce said the e-cigarette has been available in Barbados over the last few years and it is sold in many convenience malls and service stations.

He said the authorities would also be moving to clamp down on the packaging and labeling of cigarettes and manufacturers and producers would be given a reasonable time to become compliant with the measures outlining the dangers of cigarette smoking.

The minister said the packaging and labeling of any tobacco product should not contain any information that is false, misleading, deceptive or likely to give erroneous information.

Boyce said the authorities in Barbados will not recognize labels such as “low-tar” cigarettes, as “terms which change the form of the cigarette from dangerous to not dangerous.”

Dominica

A former Dominica diplomat was reportedly arrested in the Dominican Republic by Interpol. He is wanted for allegedly embezzling billions of dollars in a massive Iran sanctions evasion operation.

Alirez Zibvahalal Monfared, an Iranian national, who holds a Dominica passport, has been living a life of luxury in the Dominican Republic prior to his “arrest,” the legitimacy of which is being questioned.

He holds (or held) a diplomatic passport from Dominica, which he allegedly acquired through a personal relationship with the country’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

However, Skerrit has denied any involvement in the high-profile Iran sanctions case, in which three people have so far been arrested.

Monfared’s arrest has reopened the ongoing controversy over foreigners buying diplomatic passports in Dominica.

Guyana

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Ministers recently attended a two-day conference in Guyana with CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRoque, who called for the strengthening and deepening of the Community’s integration process, noting that it was the “best option to ensure that the Community withstands the challenges before it.”

The secretary general highlighted several issues that the CARICOM grouping was still grappling with.

He said these included low-growth, the challenges of correspondent banking, climate change, crime and security, and restrictions on access to concessional development financing.

Highlight of the meeting was the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on “Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women” with United Nations Women.

LaRocque said that the MoU will allow for support to the CARICOM Regional Gender Program and the work of the CARICOM Regional Statistics Program.

The CARICOM Council of Ministers comprise ministers responsible for CARICOM affairs in member states and is the second-highest organ of the Community.

The Council has primary responsibility for strategic planning and coordination of the Community, in accordance with the policy directions established by the regional leaders.

Jamaica

Two former leaders of the Moravian Church in Jamaica were recently charged with indecent assault and carnal abuse.

The arrest of former Moravian president Paul Gardner and his deputy Jermaine Gibson followed the arrest of Rupert Clarke, and another Moravian minister, who is currently before the courts charged with alleged sexual misconduct.

The two former leaders were charged following investigations by detectives from the Center for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.

The law firm representing Gardner and Gibson said in a statement that their clients are of the opinion that the accusations are being done “out of sheer malice, with the intention of destroying their good name.”

It said the arrests are “based on vile, malicious and tenuous allegations” and “the available evidence is riddled with inconsistencies and is bereft of credibility, cogency or corroboration.”

Gardner resigned as Moravian Church president in the wake of the allegations against Clarke, who was reportedly found by the police in “a comprising position” with a 15-year-old girl.

Haiti

More than 20 people were killed recently and several others injured when a bus carrying 64 passengers overturned after it collided with a truck.

Police said the accident occurred at Morne La Crete, about 50 kilometers in the North West Haiti.

The National Ambulance Center of Haiti said 11 of those killed died at the scene and several of the wounded were taken to Gros Morne Hospital and to Gonaives.

Survivors of the crash said the bus was experiencing mechanical problems before the accident.

The unidentified driver, who survived the accident, is reported to have fled the scene of the first major accident of the year in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Turks and Caicos Islands

The bodies of 12 Haitian migrants (eight males and four females) were recently found in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

Police found bodies ashore after receiving a call about people running into the bush in an isolated area off Providenciales.

Immigration and police officers were immediately dispatched to the area and the US Coast Guard was also asked to participate in an intensive search for survivors and other bodies.

The northwest point of Providenciales, an isolated area with dense foliage, is very popular for Haitians’ who try to enter illegally on the island. It is remote from the southern island radar, which is used to detect undocumented migrants attempting to enter the territorial waters of the TCI.

Trinidad

Six air freight courier companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago have been given permission by a High Court judge in Port of Spain, Trinidad to challenge the implementation of a seven percent Online Purchase Tax (OPT) imposed by the government in its 2016 / 2017 budget, which came into effect last October.

Justice Ricky Rahim granted leave to the companies to challenge the legality of the move without the companies being first consulted.

They are seeking to have the court declare that the implementation of the OPT by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and the Office of the Attorney General without their input was irrational, wholly unreasonable, disproportionate to any legitimate aim of the Minister of Finance and the AG’s Office and amounted to an irregular and improper exercise.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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