Caribbean RoundUp

Venezuelan migrants depart from their country’s embassy in the Dominican Republic to board a bus that will transport them to the international airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. The government of Venezuela has financed a program to help migrants who fled the economic crisis in back home, to fly back to their homeland.
Associated Press / Ezekiel Lopez Blanco

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda is moving to increasing penalties for human trafficking offences.

Parliament has passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Amendment Bill 2018 recently and now it has to go to the senate.

Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin explained that the proposal is to remove the option of a fine or a term of imprisonment to that with mandatory imposition of both forms of punishment if someone is found guilty of human trafficking.

Benjamin said the bill also seeks to amend the law when it comes to punishing a person for promotion human trafficking. He said both penalties would not be optional but mandatory.

He also announced the proposed introduction of changes to the human trafficking law where the child is the victim.

Benjamin said the penalties are going to be stiffer to curb the crime of human trafficking and it would bring the laws in line with laws in other Caribbean Community countries and in compliance with international obligations accordingly.

Barbados

The Barbados government has assured citizens who bought saving bonds three years ago under the marketing campaign that they will not be affected by the debt restructuring program being implemented to turn around the ailing economy.

Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, said the new Prime Minister Mia Mottley administration would protect their interests as all responsible administrations were meant to do.

He said it is important to point out that the government of Barbados has decided to protect those holders of saving bonds on the basis of the principle of good corporate governance.

Straughn said the government had created a special instrument for pensioners with government securities, so they would receive principal payments over the next four years.

He said the government was cognizant that many individuals with bonds might not have read the detailed prospectus when they purchased their existing securities.

The minister gave the assurance that the government would endeavor to further sensitize the public as to the signals to look for before committing their hard earned monies.

Bahamas

The Bahamas government has approved a multi-million dollar project to develop the Lighthouse Point property in South Eleuthera into a cruise port.

Environmental groups are urging the government to stop the project.

The government said it has taken into consideration the views of the majority of the people of Central and South Eleuthera is satisfied that it has made the best decision in the interest of the people and the economic development of the country, it said in a statement.

The statement said that negotiations will now begin on an agreement, which will detail the scope of the project and the obligations of both Disney Cruise Line and the government.

The Bahamas National Trust environmentalists and non-governmental organizations have strongly protested against the proposed development.

Last month, the chairman of the environmental group Save The Bays, urged the government not to sell land at the Lighthouse Point and Lighthouse Beach in South Eleuthera to Disney Cruise Lines that wants to create a private destination for its passengers.

Caribbean

The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed its Zika virus country classification scheme from countries in the Caribbean.

The scheme had categorized most of the territories in the region as having active Zika virus transmission.

The removal of the mosquito-borne virus by the WHO comes on the heels of data released by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), giving evidence that the Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been undetectable for more than 12 months, thereby posing very little risk to residents and visitors to the region.

According to CARPHA’s Executive Director, Dr. James Hospadeles, the Zika classification was not only having an adverse impact on the Caribbean, but it was also against the tenets of the International Health Regulations.

This adverse impact, he said was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), who made a formal request to CARPHA for the intervention of the agency.

Dominica

The Dominica parliament has approved legislation allowing for the United States to access financial information from persons holding American citizenship, which Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said was a “profoundly intrusive piece of legislation.”

Skerrit said it will not affect a Dominican citizen as only American citizens will be obligated under the laws of the United States of America.

Skerrit, who is also finance minister, noted that had Dominica not followed suit and approve the Foreign Account Tax Compliance United States of America Act 2018, “it would also have a serious impact on the banking sector in Dominica.”

He said that through a court order, the US authorities would have access to the tax records of Americans who are resident in Dominica “and all the banks here with no exception are obligated, whether we pass this legislation or not in Dominica, it will be imposed upon us.”

Grenada

A prominent criminal attorney is calling on the Grenada government to take immediate legal steps to accommodate Canadian visitors who need to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, despite the island’s laws prohibiting the use of the illegal drug.

Attorney Anselm Clouden, who has been advocating the decriminalization of marijuana over the years for both medicinal and religious purposes, says if Grenada fails to provide such accommodation this could lead to a backlash from the Canadian government.

Canada recently legalized the use of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In most provinces and all the territories, people will be allowed to possess four marijuana plants per household.

Clouden said Grenada now needs to take steps to protect the thousands of Canadians who will be visiting the island for business or pleasure.

He said the government should do like what Jamaica has done, where visitors coming it with cannabis will have to declare it at the airport, declare the quantity they are coming with and if their stay exceeds a certain period they will have to be permitted to bring into the country for their personal use added quantities.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley has turned down assistance from CARICOM leaders to assist the people of Trinidad and Tobago in the aftermath of the recent floods that caused millions of dollars in damages to household items, including beds, stoves and refrigerators and the farming industry. The flood affected more than 120,000 people, especially in East and Central Trinidad.

The Office of the Prime Minister stated in a release that Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley has been contacted by the prime ministers of Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Dominica and the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro who said they were on standby to assist the people of Trinidad and Tobago in the event that requests for assistance are forthcoming.

“The regional leaders have expressed their concern for the people of Trinidad and Tobago as we grapple with the effects of the floods due to this unusually protracted period of inclement weather,” the release said.

It added, “The prime minister thanked all the leaders for their concern and best wishes and indicated that, difficult as it is, we are coping for the moment through government agency responses and private outpourings from across the nation.”

Three days of heavy rainfall caused many rivers to overflow their banks, bringing traffic to a standstill on the major highways, and leaving residents, especially in Central and East Trinidad marooned for days as the water receded.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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