Caribbean RoundUp

In this file photo, Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell addresses the CARICOM Summit in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. More than a dozen leaders arrived to the island nation for the summit of Caribbean leaders.
Associated Press/Dieu Nalio Chery,file

Antigua

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has fired his Minister of Education, Michael Browne, 44, after he was arrested and charged by the police following an investigation into rape allegations made against him by a woman.

PM Browne advised the governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda to revoke the former minister’s portfolio and appoint Darryl Matthew as minister of education.

The former minister of education appeared before a St. John’s magistrate on the charge and was granted EC$15,000 bail and ordered to surrender his travel documents and must report three times a week to the police.

Grenada

Grenada is expecting major spending cuts in the 2021 budget due to a drop in revenue that has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PM Dr. Keith Mitchell has told members of the Finance Committee that the budget for several government ministries will be reduced due to a fall in revenue.

Dr. Mitchell said this was the first time in six years that “we can say we are having a serious problem with raising revenue. We are going through a tough time with this pandemic. It’s a tough time indeed.”

He made the announcement at a recent meeting in the parish of St. David.

The 2021 annual estimated revenue and expenditure will be the first to be presented by Gregory Bowen, who became minister of finance following a Cabinet reshuffle in September, but which became effective on Oct. 5.

A date is yet to be announced for its presentation but traditionally it’s normally done on the last Friday in November.

Dr. Mitchell, who previously served as finance minister, explained that the drop in revenue will affect central government’s fulfilling all demands placed on the government.

“Where we make the cuts, we will be doing so in areas where we feel the country can withstand the cut we will be making,” he said.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government is planning to roll out a travel protection program and emergency service program, which will allow travelers to the island to be covered in the event of an emergency.

Minister of  Tourism, Edmund Bartlett in making this announcement said this program will position Jamaica as one of the most COVID-19- resilient countries in the world when it is launched, hopefully this month.

Speaking at the recent Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) Live 2020, Jamaica’s ground-breaking virtual trade show, Bartlett said the program was developed to assure visitors that their safety and well being was being taken care of when they travel.

He said Jamaica Cares, is a ground-breaking travel protection and emergency service program that provides visitors with cost of Medicare, evacuations, field rescue, case management and patient advocacy in all circumstances up to and including natural disasters.

The minister said as it relates to COVID-19, the protection plan also covers testing symptomatic travelers, quarantine isolation in a medical facility or in a sanctioned quarantine facilities if necessary, signing on the service would be mandatory, he noted.

Haiti

Kidnappers have released Fr. Ronald Sylvain after a million Gourdes (one Gourde=US$0.15 cents) was paid for his release.

Armed men in Delmas kidnapped Fr. Sylvain on Nov. 10.

Fr. Sylvain was released after Cardinal Chiby Langlois, addressing the fourth Congress of the National Justice and Peace Commission, expressed concern at the growing insecurity in Haiti.

He also denounced kidnappings, gender violence and insecurity of land tenure in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Police said recently they were able to release 51 passengers on a bus that had been seized by armed bandits.

And the National Network for the Defense of Haitian Rights said on the second anniversary of the La Saline massacre, justice has still not yet been done.

It said, in 2019, at least 120 had been killed, 50 others disappeared and at least 15 women and girls were raped.

Suriname

The Suriname government is seeking to postpone payment to bondholders saying it will give the country an opportunity to reduce the budget deficit.

In a statement, the Ministry of Finance and Planning said, in accordance with the loan conditions, it has asked bondholders of 2024 and 2026 for a so-called ‘standstill” adding that with the expected approval, there are benefits for the country.

“This will give the government breathing space to reduce the budget deficit, which will ensure macroeconomic stability. This is currently under discussion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Another advantage is that the country has the opportunity to develop and submit a debt management program to all its creditors,” the Ministry of Finance said.

The statement said that not having to pay will also mean that the authorities can keep foreign currency and that this will enable “the economic crisis created by the previous government” to be managed.

The authorities said the crisis has been exacerbated by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance and Planning reiterated that if Suriname receives approval from the bondholders, it means there will be a postponement of certain interest and principal payments that were planned for this year and 2021.

St. Lucia

Dominica police say the new regulations introduced in the country to curb the spread of the COVID-19 are not intended to be punitive.

People can be fined as much as EC$10,000 or jailed for a year for breaching the covid protocols.

The Environmental Health Services COVID-19 Amended Regulations 2020 has made it mandatory that everyone wear a mask or a suitable covering over the nose and mouth.

Acting Deputy Chief of Police Davidson Valerie told a news conference that individuals are also required to wear a mask in public buildings, including supermarkets, retail and wholesale commercial establishments, bars, markets or any other similar business. Failure to do so could result in a EC$75 fine.

Valerie said people detained for being part of large gatherings are committing an offence under the legislation and are liable to, on summary conviction, to a fine of EC$10,000 or a year in jail.

He said no person shall host a gathering of more than 50 people, unless in possession of written permission from the chief of police.

Trinidad

As Trinidad and Tobago faces a battering from international human rights organizations over its inhumane treatment of illegal Venezuelans migrants, particularly children, the Trinidad and Tobago Government is considering laws which can protect refugees and asylum seekers.

Attorney General Faris al Rawi said by implementing legislation to give effect to international conventions for asylum seekers and refugees places a mandatory obligation on the State to provide housing, education and other needs ahead of citizens.

He said the issue of the international convention concerning asylum seekers and refugees is one which is globally in a state of flux, noting, “That is so because the convention requires a prioritization of asylum seekers and refugees to citizens who are in your jurisdiction when you look at it.”

The AG said Trinidad and Tobago has adopted other conventions, such as the protection of children rights into domestic law with the passage of the Children Act, the Trafficking in Persons Act and took the bold move to register all Venezuelans both legal and illegal.

Last week the Ministry of National Security deported another 160 more illegal Venezuelans on the heels of a planned meeting with T&T Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley and Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro.

The high court in Trinidad and Tobago has been blocking some of the deportations after lawyers of the illegal Venezuelans filed constitutional motions to stop the Government sending back a number of mothers and their children.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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