The Antigua and Barbuda government says it will resist efforts to shift the base of the financially-strapped regional airline LIAT, to CARICOM neighbor Barbados.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that while he is aware that St. John’s does not have the “shareholder capacity” to have the airline maintains its base in Antigua and Barbuda, it is still engaged in a fight to have it remain in the island.
In February, Browne wrote to the chairman of the shareholder governments of the regional airline, urging a temporary halt on plans for a voluntary separation package (VSEP) that could result in more than 150 employees being removed from the company’s payroll.
In his letter to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said he was also urging that no further action be taken until his administration discusses the matter.
Gonsalves said the plans were to reduce the airline’s debt significantly. He said it involves cutting the staff number from 800 to 620.
Apart from Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the other shareholders are Barbados and Dominica. While the governments agreed to the shift, they also said Antigua and Barbuda remains an important gateway for LIAT.
The Bahamas government has stoutly defended its immigration policy and dismissed as “false, baseless and malicious” allegations by human rights groups that the policy had trampled on the human rights of people in the CARICOM country.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez addressing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently, said the allegations made by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) were untrue as it relates to the new immigration policy that came into force late last year.
Gomez told the IACHR that Nassau has a history of respecting human rights that “predates our independence.”
“Indeed, our support of Haiti and its people in the attainment of economic, political and social stability emanates from an abiding and unflinching belief in the dignity of our shared human condition,” Gomez told the ICHAR commissioners, who convened the hearing based on specific allegations made by GBHRA President Fred Smith about the mistreatment of illegal Haitian immigrants in the Bahamas.
Smith had submitted written documents to the IACHR on the issue recently, the international human rights group, Amnesty International said it was seeking information from the Bahamas government regarding its immigration policy.
The Perry Christie administration last year implemented a series of migration policies, including new requirements for migrants residing in the country, such as holding a residence permit for children to enroll in schools.
Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur has called on the Barbados government to re-examine its policies relating to the island’s burgeoning debt, saying any future economic growth would be dwarfed by increased financial problems.
Arthur said Barbados’ annual debt service of Bds. $240 million is growing at a faster rate than the deficit.
Arthur, an economist, who also served as finance minister, told legislators during the debate on the 2015-16 estimates of revenue and expenditure, the debt situation would negatively impact any benefits to be derived from the 0.03 economic growth indicated by Finance Minister Chris Sinkler recently.
“The key issue is the debt to revenue, Barbados has now reached the stage where out of every dollar of revenue that the government of Barbados earns, 66 percent has to go to pay the debt,” he said.
Arthur warned once this scenario continues, “all of the problems we hear about, the absence of toilet paper at the hospital and these things, they will persist.”
Jamaica’s main investment vehicle, JAMPRO says that the government is looking to implement a residency through investment program.
This could see special immigration status given to wealthy foreigners who agree to make a sizeable investment in the island.
The JAMPRO confirmation came days after Bloomberg Business Magazine reported that Jamaica is in talks with Swiss lawyer Christian Kalin, who was the architect of similar citizenship by investment programs in St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St. Lucia.
While denying that JAMPRO had direct talks with Kalin, Claude Duncan, vice-president for investment and promotion at JAMPRO, said discussions regarding a residence by investment program were well advanced.
“What we are looking at is economic residence which is a distinct difference from what St. Kitts has done. A lot of consultation has taken place between us and the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and the other relevant agencies in order to avoid the pitfalls which have affected other jurisdictions,” said Duncan.
While arguing that Jamaica could derive numerous economic benefits from a well-managed economic residency program, Duncan asserted that it would not be a carte blanche sale of Jamaican passports to wealthy foreigners, as persons would need to pass numerous background and security checks before becoming eligible for the program.
Lawyers for former St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas are demanding an apology and significant sums in damages from people who used the social media to claim that the United States had revoked the visa of their client ahead of the last general election.
Pre-action protocol letters have already issued to two people on the island demanding an apology, a retraction of the posting on the social website Facebook and at least EC$300,000 in damages.
In the letter, the attorneys claim that the posting by a “public and outspoken supporter of the current administration” on March 11, 2015 was made without any form of research.
“You acted with clear and transparently dishonest intention of with extreme recklessness in order to cause maximum damage to the former prime minister with the outrageous allegation,” the letter said.
The letters to the two people indicate that Dr. Douglas, who served as prime minister for 20 years, takes serious issue with the allegation and in particular attempts to “scandalize his name, reputation and legacy.”
Ecuador has appointed its first ambassador to St. Lucia since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1980.
Ambassador Designate of the Republic of Ecuador to St. Lucia, Galo Yepez Holguin recently presented his credentials to Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy.
He said this was the first step of a new era of mutual understanding.
“The president, Rafael Correa, sends to her excellency his message of brotherhood and friendship. He believes that the Caribbean and Latin American countries must stay strongly united to face all the new challenges of the twenty first century,” Ambassador Holguin said.
Dame Pearlette said she looks forward to continue diplomatic relations with the government of the Republic of Ecuador.
“Your appointment to St. Lucia brings new life and vigor to the relationship and we do look forward to cooperating with each other more closely in areas of mutual interest and concern,” she said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the date for the next general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has already been decided, but he will not disclose if as yet to the general population.
Dr. Gonsalves, speaking at a rally marking the 14th anniversary of the ruling Unity Labor Party (ULP) in office, said he knows when he would inform the head to state to issue the election writ.
“I will tell you, the dates have already come to me for the elections; I know when I am going to dissolve the House and I know when I am going to ask the governor general to have the writ issued for the election date,” he told party supporters over the last week-end.
General elections are constitutionally due by March 28, 2016, but are widely expected this year.
The ULP will face a challenge from the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
In the last general election in December 2010, the ULP won by a one-seat margin to take control of the 21-member House of Assembly.
If elections are held this year, St. Vincent and the Grenadines voters will join their counterparts in the Caribbean Community countries of Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago where general elections will be held this year.
The People’s Partnership (PP) government has passed a tough piece of legislation to deny a person over the age of 18, who is caught with an illegal firearm no bail for up to 120 days.
The Bail (Amendment) Bill 2015 was passed in the Senate recently with a majority although three Opposition Senators voted against it.
The bill, once proclaimed by the president, will become law as it was already passed in the House of Representatives on March 20, with 36 members, including the opposition voting for it. The bill required a special majority for passage and has a sunset clause – it expires in August 2016.
Attorney General Garvin Nicholas in moving the second reading of the bill noted that illegal firearms account for 72 percent of murders in Trinidad and Tobago compared with 2.4 percent in the United Kingdom.
He said normal law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear. Nicholas said persons who will be targeted by the bill are those who already have a pending charge for a serious offence and are then arrested and charged for possession of an unlicensed firearm, or those who are using an unlicensed firearm in the serious commission of a crime. He said the bill be in effect for 16 months.
Turks and Caicos
After a three-week trial which attracted widespread attention among the Turks and Caicos islands population, Cortez Simmons, the son of an employee of Carl Simmons, a well-known, prominent and respected Turks and Caicos Islands businessman, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Chief Justice Ramsey-Hale sentenced Simmons after he was found guilty by a majority verdict of 11-1 of the murder of 25-year-old Kaziah Burke on April, 13, 2013 at Uncle Doe’s Bar at Airport Road Providenciales.
Simmons had only four years prior to being acquitted after a jury trial in 2009 for the murder of one Shamade Ingham, the first cousin of Burke who had been gunned down in front of the yard of Simmons’ home.
The court heard that while playing a game of dominoes at the bar around 8.30 p.m., a gunman walked into the bar and in the presence of several patrons opened fire on Burke.
The prosecution based its case entirely on circumstantial evidence as there were no witnesses willing to come forward and identify the gunman despite the presence of several people who were seen fleeing from the bar during the shooting. There was evidence of bad blood which existed between Simmons and Burke.
Compiled by Azad Ali
— compiled by Azad Ali