Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

Former Dominica attorney general, Barnard Wiltshire is calling for the creation of a political watchdog body for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

He said it is time for people to unite on the issue of eradicating corruption in the region.

His comments came after the Antigua and Barbuda government announced that two matters relating to corruption in the United Progressive Party (UPP) have been handed over to the police.

Wiltshire said these issues were not common to Antigua and Barbuda alone, since other allegations of corruption exist within the OECS.

He said the “people’s vigilance” organization would also examine how the opposition is being treated or mistreated as the case may be.

“In Dominica, we have our own problems with the government’s attitude to the opposition. It is almost as if when you put the label “opposition” on any group of people, you immediately attract the ire and dislike of people and that should not be,” he said.

The former Dominica AG said such behaviors are not a part of a properly functioning democracy.

Wiltshire said regional governments have become more “liberal” and more willing to “circumscribe” the rights of the people.

Barbados

Barbados is moving to finalize an air services agreement with China to boost tourism to the Caribbean island from the Far East.

A government statement quoted Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as describing the relationship between the two countries as “a long and fruitful” one, with both sides working together at the political, economic, cultural and military levels.

However, it said that Stuart wants to see more Chinese tourists coming to the island and pointed out that an air services agreement and visa requirements needed to be finalized.

“We are paying special attention to getting those visa requirements worked out because we want to make travel between the two countries as easy as possible,” he said during a meeting with a six-member delegation from the People’s Republic of China.

Dominica

Dominica has launched a new initiative that will allow people to submit reports online of businesses engaged in suspicious transactions.

Information, Science and Telecommunications Minister Kelvar Darroux said “all communication between the user and the website is encrypted and protected by a SSL certificate.”

The Suspicion Transaction Report (STRS) application or “Dominica-FSU e-Filing System” (DEFS) was launched at the police headquarters recently by the Information and Communication Technology Unit (ICTU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security.

The online application eliminates the need for paper filing and provides a greater level of security and privacy for an individual filing a suspicious transaction report.

Guyana

Guyana President David Granger has announced that former President Donald Ramoutar is joining the coalition government.

It is the first time in the history of the South American country that the top three political leaders have joined forces in Guyana.

Just prior to last year’s general elections, APNU and AFC formed a coalition to narrowly win the elections.

Now in a historic move, President Granger has announced that Ramoutar will join the coalition.

Reports are that Ramoutar has accepted the office of the Prime Minister in a Cabinet to be reshuffled.

There are a number of former PPP / Civic ministers, who are expected to join the Granger administration, including Moses Nagamotoo, who will serve in the Ministry of Finance and as a presidential advisor. Others are Clement Rohee and Carolyn Rodrigues.

Rohee is being considered an appointment to oversee the Police Department. Rodrigues would be working along with Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge.

Jamaica

Jamaica is equipped to conduct Zika virus testing on behalf of other countries if so assigned by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This was revealed by the director of the National Reference Laboratory at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI, Professor Monica Smikle, who said that the facility is a valid WHO testing agency.

Members of staff have also benefitted from training from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The certification to test for Zika, Smikle noted, comes from the WHO through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).

Following subsequent reports that all tests were completely successful, the lab was given the go-ahead to proceed with testing in Jamaica, she explained.

The Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) was designated as the Zika testing lab in the Caribbean when the virus entered the region,

The government of Jamaica spent Ja$10 million to upgrade the UHWI Virology lab to equip it to test for the virus locally and to also provide increased capacity for diagnosis of dengue and chikungunya.

Haiti

Several human rights organizations and groups representing disabled people in Haiti are condemning the recent murder of three disabled women.

The groups, including the Haitian Society for Aid to the Blind, the National Association Network for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities and the Federation for the Deaf of Haiti said the three women, who were deaf and dumb, had been lynched after being taken for “witches.”

They said the women were only seeking a place to sleep in the zone and have since launched an appeal to the authorities to ensure respect for the rights of the disabled people in the impoverished country.

The organizations have also called for justice and compensation for the families of the three dead women.

St. Lucia

A Venezuelan national who was caught with thousands of dollars in U.S., Chinese, Bolivarian and Euro currency — some which he had swallowed — was jailed for one year in St. Lucia.

Regilo Jesus Patino Reyes became the first person to be convicted for money laundering in St Lucia’s court.

He was in prison for almost four months after he was arrested.

Reyes was held on Dec. 4, 2015 when police carried out a raid at a hotel in the north of the island.

When officers searched Reyes’ room they found US$7,610, £17,950, 4,020 Bolivars, six dollars in Chinese currency and EC$5.

He was taken to the Victoria Hospital where he was given a laxative, and he passed out 31 rolls of cash equivalent to £14,000.

St. Kitts

The European Union (EU) has disbursed EC$21.5 million (US$4.6 million) as part of St. Kitts and Nevis sugar adjustment scheme.

This was revealed by the EU’s Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barford, during a recent meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris.

Barford also said the country is set to receive an additional disbursement of EC$12.5 million by the end of the year and this will mark the completion of the sugar compensation program.

He added there will be “more assistance from our side to our partner St Kitts and Nevis over the next four or five years.”

The EU ambassador said further assistance to St. Kitts and Nevis would probably come via the EU’s regional program and added that the most recent tenders that are outstanding concern the provision of video surveillance and monitoring because this is the highest priority of the St. Kitts and Nevis government.

Trinidad

More than 5,000 workers have been put on the breadline since the new PNM government came into office in September last year.

This was revealed by Labor Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus who said cabinet has approved a 10-point mitigation plan to help the retrenched workers that includes assisting the jobless citizens.

She said the state will be providing immediate, short-term and medium-term support, she said, as government appreciates that the situation is a multi-dimensional one where the negative effects are not only financial but psychological as well.

The minister described as “unfortunate” the fact that the case of former workers of steel giant ArcelorMittal’ facility, over 600 workers were sent home without benefits.

Bapiste-Primus sought to offer hope for those facing unemployment that coordination between the parties — the state, private sector and the individual themselves — could result in more persons being put back to work based on their skills.

She said government continues to work on resolving the ArcelorMittal situation.

The government is also hosting a tripartite workshop on April 13, where it intends to propose, among other solutions, that the private sector work out a contract labor arrangement to ease the dependency in the coming months.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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