Caribbean RoundUp

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda has appointed Peter Benjamin, who presented his letters of credence to Gladys Bejerano Portela, vice-president of Cuba’s state council, in Havana recently as Cuba’s ambassador.

Portella said the relationship between the two countries was “based on fundamental values such as cooperation, solidarity and mutual support,” hoping that Benjamin’s appointment would further “fortify” the relationship.

Benjamin’s appointment comes as the countries mark 21 years of diplomatic relations.

He pointed to Cuba’s recent working in fighting the Ebola outbreak in Cuba and paid tribute to Cuban national hero Jose Marti in placing a wreath at his monument.

The presentation was held in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.

Barbados

Barbados is looking to Trinidad and Tobago to boost tourism, the mainstay of its economy.

Vicky Chandler, Caribbean and Latin America director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) said T&T is the island’s number one market in the region and fourth globally.

She said of the 78, 594 visitors to Barbados last year, 27,952, or 35.6 percent were from Trinidad and Tobago.

However, there has been an overall decline in visitors to Barbados due to competition from the United States and Canada.

“Last year was the third year that we had seen a reduction in numbers from Trinidad but it is not only Trinidad, it is the entire region,” she said.

Chandler said tourism officials in Barbados are going all out to recapture this interest as the decline can cause further stagnation of the industry.

She said they are also working on tactical programs with Caribbean Airlines and LIAT to provide more attractive air fare options to visitors.

Bahamas

The Bahamas police are investigating the deaths of two cruise ship crew members, working on separate vessels in Bahamian waters, according to the Associated Press.

The news agency said police had disclosed few specifics, saying only that they were “actively investigating these incidents to determine the exact cause of death”.

The deaths came about 24 hours apart.

A statement from the Royal Bahamian Police Force disclosed that a male crew member was found dead recently aboard the cruise ship anchored at Castaway Cay, a private island that serves as an exclusive port of Disney Cruise Line vessels.

The lifeless body of a female crew member was found aboard another cruise ship as it passed through Bahamian waters, police said.

Dominica

A High Court judge has sentenced a 51-year-old man to 35 years in jail after he was found guilty of three counts of sexual offences on a nine year-old girl.

Justice Errol Thomas in sentencing Fagan Jno Hope said he had considered the child was a minor under the age of 14 and similar offences were committed.

Jno Hope is alleged to have committed the acts between July and October 2012. A nine-member jury found him guilty on April 29 and was sentenced last week.

Jno Hope, who was convicted of murder in 1989, incest in 2011 and battery in 2012 did not express remorse. A probation report described him as a threat to society, especially children.

Jamaica

Jamaica will soon roll out an integrated vector control program to prevent the Zika virus from reaching the shores of Jamaica, and set up its public education campaign on the disease.

The virus, which has caused a recent health scare in Brazil, is being spread by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms include severe fever, joint and muscle pains, headaches and rashes.

These symptoms usually appear within three to l2 days following a bite.

Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson said his ministry has already started a public education campaign encouraging persons to protect themselves if the virus should come to Jamaica.

He recently met with the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, and Jamaica would be getting support from that group with its vector control program.

He said PAHO has helped Jamaica in the past in other health emergency drives and in this, they will be giving technical support.

Other Caribbean countries are also on alert for the Zika virus, however, there have been no cases in the Caribbean to date.

Haiti

Haiti’s Sunrise Airways is moving to increase flights between Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo to regularly scheduled status and expand to other destinations throughout the Caribbean.

The expansion is being made possible with Sunrise Airways being awarded a Part 129 Operating Permit from the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation. It is the first Haitian airline to earn Part 129 status.

“We’ve taken another big step forward with this announcement, one that will have a signification impact on our ability to successfully grow our route network in the months to come,” said Philippe Bayard, president of the airline which was launched in December 2012.

Sunrise Airway’s new regularly scheduled service to Santo Domingo builds on its scheduled operations between Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Travelers can connect on same day service from Santo Domingo to Santiago de Cuba, via Port-au-Prince vice versa.

The carrier also operates 52 weekly scheduled domestic flights between Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.

The current Sunrise Airways fleet comprised of 19-seat Jetstream 32 EP aircraft.

St Vincent

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament has passed an amendment to the election law that will see 23,741 names removed from the voters’ list ahead of the next general election constitutionally due by March 2016.

The amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act, is the result of a bipartisan effort to clean up the voters’ list, which, as of May 26, 2015, was 2,038 persons fewer than the 2012 population.

The amendment now means that only persons registered on or after June 1, 2005 are qualified to vote, unless they register.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in tabling the bill recently, told lawmakers that the size of the voters’ list had been a matter on which there were immense public discussion, led by the Office of the Supervisor of Elections.

In explaining the need for the amendment, Gonsalves pointed to statement from the ruling and opposition parties and successive Organization of American States elections monitoring teams and other election observers, including local observers.

These entities have all commented on the size of the voters’ list.

Gonsalves said that the law passed in 1982 provided for continuous registration of electors and the removal from the list of the names of persons who have been overseas for a continuous five-year period.

Suriname

An electoral observations team from the organization of the American States (OAS) was impressed by several aspects of Suriname’s elections recently, but suggested several improvements including the introduction of campaign financing regulations and affirmative action to promote gender equality in politics.

The mission commended Surinamese for the “exemplary civic spirt” and active participation in the election that was eventually won by the incumbent National Democratic Party (NDP) led by President Desi Bouterse which got 27 of the 51 seats.

It said the polling stations opened on time, were adequately staffed and fully equipped with all the materials required for the election and it also commended political parties for the camaraderie shown throughout the day at polling stations.

However, it said other steps could be taken to strengthen the electoral process. On this occasion, 128 candidates or 33 percent of the total number were women compared to 90 in the last election.

The observers also welcomed the effort made to improve the access to polling stations for persons with disabilities, including the introduction of special voting booths.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has denied allegations from United National Congress (UNC) chairman Jack Warner that funds from FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) were used in 2010 for the political campaigns for the UNC internal elections and general election.

She said the UNC may consider an audit of its finances, given the fact that Warner has been indicted by the U.S. government for wire fraud and money laundering.

Warner was a former Minister of Works and Minister of National Security in the ruling PP government.

Persad-Bissessar say any personal allegations made about her will be placed in the hands of her attorneys.

“I keep saying my hands are clean and my heart is free. I am not concerned. Kamla received no funds from Mr. Warner,” she told the media.

“I deny any FIFA funding was used to the campaign of the UNC and of the People’s Partnership. Any allegations about me, I place those in the hands of my lawyers.

“Given all these circumstances coming down with Mr Warner, we will consider whether we should do an audit of any funds for the UNC in response to that,” the prime minister said.

“No one would have known whether it was FIFA funding. I have cheques in my possession where people made donations,” she added.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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