Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

Antigua’s Parliament has given the government the green light to borrow a US$1.58 million loan from Banco del ALBA to acquire additional shares in the cash-strapped regional LIAT.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne told legislators that his administration anticipate that the recapitalization of the airline will make LIAT more efficient and profitable as he warned of salary and wage reductions.

He said a condition of the new capital would be that there has to be cuts including a reduction in salary and wages.

Antigua and Barbuda currently holds 34 percent of the shares in the airline and earlier this month discontinued its interest in purchasing some of the shares owned by the Barbados government.

The government has sought to acquire the LIAT shares owned by Barbados, through a take-over of the liability of Barbados to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

The other shareholder governments of LIAT are Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

Browne told Parliament that he had negotiated the loan to fund LIAT is September with US$800,000 of the loan amount utilized to cover “the transactional expenses at a percentage of two percent”

He said the loan will be termed over a period of l0 years at six percent per annum with an annual payment of about two million US dollars a year.

Barbados:

The Barbados government has placed a ban on single-use plastic packing, containers and utensils, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

According to the Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey, retailers are urged to remove those items by Jan. 1, next year.

He said that so far, most retailers have been complying with the pending legislation, and local bag manufacturers were already producing more environmentally friendly bags.

Humphrey said the manufacturers of plastic bags have been able to make natural organic resin-based plastic bag.

The ban will see products such as petro-based single-use plastic cups; cutlery including plastic knives, forks and spoons; (both plastic and Styrofoam); and Styrofoam containers used in the culinary retail industry being prohibited.

Bahamas

Bahamas Health Minister, Dr. Duane Sands has announced a ban on all sugary drinks from government healthcare facilities and public schools, effective from Dec. 1, 2019.

Initially, the government considered a sugary drinks tax, but that was change to a ban on the drinks.

However, due to the impact of Hurricane Dorian, the Ministry of Health decided to delay the implementation.

According to Dr. Sands, the ban should have come much sooner, as tell-tale signs of an unhealthy nation are everywhere.

“The culprit is the Parent Teacher Association who brings doughnuts to sell and sodas to raise money,” he said.

The Health Minister said as a deterrent, vendors may be forced to set up substantially further from school campuses, maybe about a l00 or 200 feet away from the school.

A survey conducted earlier this year — the 2019 STEPS Survey — revealed 60 percent of Bahamians add two or more spoons of sugar to tea and coffee; 32 percent eat “sweets” the more times a week; and 92 percent of Bahamians drink one to three cans of sugar beverages every single day.

When the survey was released in August, Sands said in a one-year span, the average Bahamian consumes 64 pounds of added or discretionary sugar.

Jamaica

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has distanced itself from the collapse of the case against 29 alleged members of the Westmoreland-based Dexter Street (Middle East) East Gang, who were freed by a High Court recently after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) withdrew the case against them.

The alleged gangsters, including four women were charged with breaches of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organization) Act 2014, commonly referred to as the anti-gang legislation.

But in a statement, the CFJ said that it “would like to make it abundantly clear that solid police work was done in the preparation of the case.”

It said also that “every effort” had been made to have the key witness placed under the Witness Protection Program.

“However, despite our best efforts, the individual resisted police protection and eventually disappeared altogether,” it said.

The Dexter Street Gang had been linked to nearly 40 murders in western Jamaica since 2016 and the police believe that a shipment of 19 guns and more than 4,000 rounds of ammuntion seized at the Kingston Container Terminal on November 17 last year was destined for the gang.

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says his administration has so far not taken any “definitive decision” as it relates to the buggery laws in St. Lucia.

He said that decision is going to require a lot of dialogue and discussions, adding that his government does not have an official position on it as yet.

Chastanet told reporters even as he has acknowledged that while the matter has become a global issue, there were many definitions as to whether anti-buggery laws impede human rights.

He dismissed suggestions that anti-buggery laws send the wrong message to the world and could affect the tourism industry.

“We have seen countries which have gone and decriminalized buggery and have reversed their position. We have seen other countries which have just remained constant,” he said.

The prime minister said there still needs to be a lot of discussion and debate in St. Lucia before the country can move forward on the issue.

St. Vincent

The Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jomo Thomas announced that he was quitting the ruling Unity Labor Party (ULP) of Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

He said he would leave the post as speaker early into the new year.

Thomas, a human rights lawyer and activist, who was the ULP’s candidate for South Leeward in the 2015 general election, told reporters that he had no intention of offering himself as a candidate in the next general election.

Gonsalves, said general election would he held by the end of 2020, ahead of the March 20121 constitutional deadline.

Thomas said he has come to his decision primarily because the time, energy, money, effort, cannot be properly justified, considering the current state of play in the party.

Thomas, a social commentator with a 15-year-old weekly column, has long been critical of the ULP which he has always said he supports.

However, that criticism did not wane much after August 2013 when he became a senator for the ULP administration and went on to be the party’s candidate in the 2015 poll.

But after he lost to the incumbent, Nigel Stephenson, of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Thomas accepted the position of the speaker of the National Assembly on the grounds that he would be allowed to continue his law practice.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government is proposing legislation to decriminalize marijuana.

This was revealed by Attorney General, Faris al-Rawi during the PNM rally for the Dec. 2 Local Government Election at the Queen’s Park Savannah last Sunday.

He said the legislation will be taken before Cabinet this week, which will extend to decriminalizing importation, expunging the records of persons with convictions for “weed” possession and other aspects.

The AG said decriminalizing marijuana will result in a 76 percent drop in the forensic workload.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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