Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced that effective April 1, 2016 personal income tax will be abolished in its entirety.

He made the announcement during his presentation of the 2016 Budget saying this was a promise made to the people of Antigua and Barbuda during the election campaign.

“That was a major campaign promise and my government honors its word to the people. Abolishing Personal Income Tax is an important reform. Not only will it put money in the pockets of the people, so that they can save or spend more for the benefit of the economy as a whole, it will help to re-establish our country as one of the most competitive in the Caribbean and beyond,” he said.

The prime minister said with the elimination of the income tax, EC$30 million will be back in the pockets of the people.

Brown, who is also finance minister, said the cost of collecting Personal Income Tax (PIT), the difficulty of enforcement and its unfairness with most of the self-employed not paying their fair share, make it sensible to remove the PIT from the law books.

Bahamas

The trial of eight Bahamian men who were extradited to Florida to face drug smuggling charges in December last year will have a jury trial on Feb. 8.

A judge ruled that the trial of Melvin Maycock Snr.; Carl Benson Culmer, Terry Lockhart, Sheldon Moore, Lynden Deal, Bryan Deal, Gordon Newbold and Wilfred Ferguson will start next month.

Federal prosecutors requested their extradition from The Bahamas in 2004. They were on bail since 2006.

A Supreme Court judge affirmed the orders of extradition on Sept. 11, 2014.

The Court of Appeal revoked their bail on Nov. 18, 2015 after upholding the Supreme Court’s decision to grant the extradition request.

On Dec. 11, 2015 the Court of Appeal refused an application for the men to appeal to the Privy Council for the third time.

They were surrendered to the United States government three days later.

Guyana

Guyana President David Granger says he will be personally taking an interest in finding out why so many Guyanese are taking their lives, as authorities implement a suicide prevention plan.

He said his plan of action has been agreed at an emergency meeting recently held with key ministers to address the issue, a day after the latest suicide was recorded in East Bank Berbice.

The plan will see non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious organizations and other civil society groups being engaged to work with the government on a centralized approach to suicide prevention. Granger says he will have a hands-on approach to addressing the issue and will be implementing a national program with measurable outcomes.

Guyana is reported to have the highest suicide rate, per capita, in the world.

According to a report in the Guardian newspaper in the UK, there are 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people in the South American country, compared to the global average of the 16 per 100,000.

Grenada

An American tourist was raped and stabbed to death on a lonely beach in Grenada, according to police who said the suspect had turned himself in.

The 39-year-old woman, Jessica Colker, an anesthesiologist from Atlanta was walking in the sand with her husband when the attacker stabbed her with a cutlass. Her husband escaped the attack, police said. The woman’s body was later found in a nearby mangrove.

The couple was staying at a resort in La Sagesse, St. David’s, southeast of Grenada’s capital St George’s. The beach was described by other visitors as “totally deserted.”

An ex-convict David Benjamin has confessed to the killing. He was recently released from prison, according to reports.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government is spending J$10 million (US$82,936) to upgrade and improve the Virology Laboratory at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to ensure that testing for the Zika virus can be carried out locally.

This was disclosed by Minister of Health Horace Dalley as the Zika virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito continues to spread in parts of the Caribbean and South America.

“The biggest challenge we have is that there is no laboratory in Jamaica right now that has the capacity or is accredited or certified to test for Zika. We will be investing in the university’s Virology Lab to ensure that they have the capacity,” he said.

Minister Dalley said the upgrading of the lab should be completed by next month. The necessary equipment has already been ordered and the staffing at the laboratory will be expanded.

He said there would be no need to send any suspected cases of the Zika virus to be tested at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

The Virology Lab at the University of the West Indies will have the results ready in 24 to 48 hours, he said.

The health minister noted that the laboratory would have the capacity to test approximately 100 cases per day.

Zika is from the same family of dengue and Chikunguyana.

St. Kitts

Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife and their three children recently visited St Kitts and Nevis, taking a break from the cold with a Year holiday on the tiny Caribbean island.

They spent 10 days in Nevis at the Paradise Beach Resort.

The privately-owned resort at which the Trudeau family stayed opened in June last year and is an exclusive sport for luxury, outdoor wellness and absolute privacy.

It is the only resort on the island to boast beachfront villas.

Previous famous guests of the 360-mile volcanic island include Alexander Hamilton, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Douglas.

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris who met with the Canadian prime minister said his administration was trying to persuade the Canadian government to restore visa-free travel to the North American country for citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis as several reforms have been undertaken to restore the integrity of the Citizenship-by-Investment Program.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government is blaming the country’s director of public prosecution (DPP) for not taking action to prosecute police officers allegedly involved in extrajudicial killings.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony was responding to criticism from the United States Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean that it has not made any meaningful efforts to charge St. Lucian police officers who allegedly committed extra-judicial killings from 2010 to 2011.

The prime minister said his government did everything “within its constitutional authority” to move the process forward and contrary to what the incumbent DPP Victoria Charles-Clarke claimed, the government provided her with the necessary resources to do it.

Dr. Anthony in a response said while the Embassy was right to note that there was no meaningful progress, its suggestion that this is or was due to inaction on the part of the prime minister or the government of St. Lucia is “misplaced and unjustified.”

The CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security which investigated the allegations about the extrajudicial killings sent a report to the DPP 10 months ago, in March 2015. The DPP said she never read the report until a full six months after.

Up until that time, the DPP proceeded on pre-retirement leave in December 2015.

Turks and Caicos Island

The much delayed corruption trial of former Turks and Caicos Island (TCI) Premier Michael Misick, deputy premier Floyd Hall and other Cabinet ministers recently started in the Providenciales court.

Along with Misick and Hall, Misick’s brother, Thomas Chalmers Misick; Hall’s wife Lisa; Hall’s brother Quentin; former ministers McAlister Hancehell, Linda Boyce and her brother Earlson Robinson and Jeffrey Hall’s former attorney Melbourne Wilson are also charged with multiple offences.

The process has been stalled since 2012 when the British-appointed special investigation and prosecution team announced it was ready to go forward with the case.

The pre-trial delays were the result of Misick fleeing the island and then fighting extradition from Brazil for a full year before he was found and arrested there. He was later extradited to the TCI to face the charges.

The accused have been joined as co-defendants in the case. The prosecution is using evidence against Misick in the 2009 Commission of Inquiry hearings about corruption during his tenure in office.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has called out the army to assist the police patrol some of the “hot spots” in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T).

The decision came after two school boys, aged 16 and 17 were gunned down in a mafia-style “execution” in Laventille, a few miles from the city of Port of Spain.

The two teenagers were dragged out of a vehicle while on their way home from school and shot several times about their bodies. They died on the spot.

Facing criticism over the surge in murders, which now stand at 45 in 30 days, compared to 24 for the same period last January, Dr. Rowley told a news conference that the army would be assigned to patrol crime hotspots.

He and National Security Minister retired Brigadier General Edmond Dillion and Minister of Legal Affairs held the news conference to outline measures to combat the spate of murders.

Rowley said he had “instructed Dillon to instruct the Defense Force to operate in conditions determined by them, within the laws of T&T, virtually permanently, on the streets where criminals have armed themselves and have determined the population is in siege.”

He said the crime situation got worse when the soldiers were taken off the streets.

— compiled by Azad Ali

More from Around NYC

>