Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

A momentous 12-year effort to bring a harmonized Customs Bill for the Caribbean is now in its final stages. The bill is intended to foster economic growth in the region, which will ultimately contribute to the improvement of nation countries.

CARICOM policy makers are due to finalize the harmonization of customs laws in two meetings in Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago later this month.

If successful, the harmonization project will see businesses assured of equal and fair treatment by customs authorities throughout the region. It will also increase transparency of all activities by customs administrations and give trading partners a level of predictably.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) consists of 15 Members States and five Associate Member States and has been in effect since 1973.

As the region moved closer towards integration, it was recognized that an enabling environment for greater inter-regional trade must be encouraged.

Agreement for the bill was finally reached in August 2014 with only one outstanding issue remaining, the drafting of regulations.

Antigua

The regional airline LIAT, says it is banning with immediate effect, the carriage of e-cigarettes in checked luggage and urged regional countries to adopt a united position on the matter.

The airline, citing a recommendation from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said that e-cigarettes are a fire risk and that they “mainly use lithium cells to heat liquid nicotine into a vapor.”

LIAT said these devises have, in some instances, overheated or caught fire when the heating element was accidentally activated. It said that the FAA pointed to two recent incidents in the United States.

“In the first incident, e-cigarettes packed in a passenger’s checked baggage in the cargo hold of a passenger aircraft caused a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft. In the second incident, a checked bag that has missed its flight was found to be on fire in a baggage area. Emergency responders attributed the fire to an overheated e-cigarette inside the bag,” LIAT said.

The airline said that airport security in the territories in which it operates have not yet confirmed a unified stance on the carriage of e-cigarettes in carry-on baggage.

Barbados

The Barbados government has defended allegations that the island does not welcome citizens from other CARICOM countries, insisting that it had deported a “very small percentage” of people.

“We hear very often about the number of people we deport from this country because they have overstayed their time. The numbers may sound high when you look at them by themselves,” said Darcy Boyce, who has responsibility for immigration.

He told the Senate that in 2013 Barbados deported 176 people.

“However, we had 1.4 million arrivals that year. So that number that we deported was actually a very small percentage, less than one percent,” Boyce told legislators.

But opposition legislator Wilfred Abrahams said the island had acquired a reputation for being “anti-foreigner.”

Abrahams, an attorney, said that there was a widespread feeling in the region that Barbados did not value other CARICOM nationals.

But Boyce said the figures show that only one in every 1,000 people were prevented from entering the island.

Boyce said he had to release those statistics because people had been attacking personnel of the Immigration Department who were doing their job.

Dominica

The Dominica government wants to pursue an amicable settlement in relation to the deportation of dancehall entertainer, Tommy Lee and three other Jamaican men in February last year.

This was communicated in a letter to the Attorney General’s department in Jamaica to attorney Bert Samuels who is representing the four men.

Last May, Samuels threatened that the men would file a claim with the Caribbean Court of Justice if Dominica did not start negotiations within 30 days.

Deputy Solicitor General and Director of International Affairs Division Dr. Kathy-Ann Brown outlined in the letter to Samuels that the Jamaican government received a formal indication from the Attorney General of Dominica of his government’s willingness to settle the dispute.

On Feb. 8 last year, the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches called for a boycott of a concert that was expected to feature the Jamaican entertainer, Tommy Lee.

When the artiste and three others arrived in Dominica on Feb. 23, 2014, they were detained by the authorities at the airport and deported a day later. The men say they want Dominica to pay for the alleged injustice.

Guyana

A High Court judge has sentenced a 42-year-old mother of a secondary school student and her lover to more than 200 years in jail after they were found guilty of killing the teenager in 2010.

The court heard that the body of Nessa Gopaul, a former student of Queens College was placed in a suitcase and dumped in a creek at the Emerald Tower Resort, on the Sosedyke-Linden Highway.

Her mother, Bibi Sharima Gopaul and her lover 37-year-old Jarvis Small had denied the charges.

The trial, which began on Feb. 2, 2015 ended a month later, had gripped the South American country. A 12-member mixed jury returned a guilty verdict against the couple.

Small, a father of three was sentenced to 96 years in prison.

Justice Navindra Singh in sentencing Gopaul to l06 years in prison said he couldn’t imagine what moved her to commit such an act.

“I can’t understand what a monster of a mother would kill their own child,” he told the convicted mother that while she may not live to serve her entire sentence, he hopes she serves in wherever she goes.

The prosecutor said the teenager was killed between Sept. 23 and Oct. 4, 2010 at the Emerald Tower resort. She had been strangled by Small who also bashed her head with a piece of wood.

Haiti

The Dominican Republic says it is closing, temporarily, five of its consulates in Haiti due to security concerns in the French-speaking Caricom country.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Medina, said the Government believes that “aggression” against the consulates puts staff at risk.

He said the five consulates in Haiti will be closed until the administration of Haitian President Michel Martelly “provides guarantees of adequate protection.”

The Dominican embassy in Port-au-Prince will remain open.

The decision by the authorities in Haiti to close the consulates comes a week after Haitians took to the streets to protest the mistreatment of their nationals in the Spanish-speaking country.

Haitians are also angered at the ruling in 2013 of the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic that makes it difficult for people of Haitian descent to obtain citizenship.

During the protest in Port-au-Prince, at least one person was able to climb on the roof of a consulate and rip down the Dominican flag. It was burned by the cheering crowd of Haitians.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government has condemned the brutal murder of a 14-year-old student who was hacked to death and her mutilated body dumped a few meters from her home recently.

Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna in condemning the murder said such attacks have no place in “our society” and is calling on residents in the community to share any information they may have with the security forces.

Police reports indicate that Kayalicia Simpson, a grade eight student from the farming community of Newlands, went outside her house as she prepared for school. But her body was found half an hour after she left the house, in bushes close to the one-room wooden structure in which she lived.

Education Minister Roland Thwaites said that the community must assist in bringing Kayalicia’s killers to justice and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness urged the government to “move quickly” to address the spate of attacks against women and children.

St. Lucia

A 33-year-old Canadian national was charged with the drowning death of a four-year-old last month.

Police said Sahab Jamshidi, a medical student from Hamilton, in the Canadian province of Ontario, was charged with “recklessly causing the death” of Terrell Joshua Elibox of the southern town of Vieux Fort.

Relatives told the police that on Feb. 22, 2015, the toddler was attending a church picnic with his family when Jamshidi allegedly placed him on a surfboard against the wishes of his guardian, who watched in horror as the surfboard flipped, sending Terrell overboard.

The child’s body was found floating by a civilian two days later floating in the same area where he had been reported missing.

Jamshidi has maintained his innocence. He was granted EC$10,000 bail and the case was adjourned to later this month.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government has promised to deliver 100 houses a week to home seekers from next week to Dec. 31, 2015.

If the houses are delivered, there will be more than 4,000 new government homeowners this year.

Housing Minister Dr. Roodlal Moonilal said this is no political gimmick with general election just a few months away.

He said 80 percent of the houses to be distributed are new homes that were constructed under the PP government from 2010, led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

He said a significant number of houses that were left in derelict condition from under the former PNM administration were repaired and would also be finally given to the people.

Moonilal said there are more than 160,000 people on the Housing Development Corporation’s database waiting for houses. He said the ministry and the HDC will continue their construction drive in South, central and north of the country.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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