Caribbean Roundup

Caribbean

United States law enforcement officials say they had arrested three people and seized more than 900 kilos of cocaine during operations in the Caribbean Sea recently.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), together with the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), said they had arrested three Dominican Republic nationals for drug trafficking and seized 918 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$22 million.

“In less than one month, HIS and its partners in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force have seized more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HIS.

Barbados

The Barbados government will soon consider recommendations calling for the establishment of a task force that will assist the authorities’ source funds to restore historic buildings.

Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley said a document to be presented to Cabinet is “at a very advanced stage.”

Lashley said there were several buildings on the island, including the Public Library that had not received the necessary attention over the years.

He said the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2011, many tourists had visited Barbados..

There is a niche for world heritage tourism,” he said.

Lashley said there are a number of young persons were currently being trained as tour guides within the historic property, adding this was extremely important for the country.

Grenada

A 49-year-old man will re-appear in court in Grenada on Nov. 1, 2012 charged with 76 counts of sexually assaulting his two stepdaughters over a nine-year period.

Police said Reynold Pierre was charged with 28 and 48 counts respectively of carnal knowledge.

He was not requested to plead since the charges have been laid indictably, when he recently appeared in court.

Pierre was released on EC$100,000 bail. The two children have since been removed from the home.

In July, Parliament approved an amendment to the Criminal Code, which provides for a maximum of 30 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of sex offences.

Haiti

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti said recently that more than half of the $5.33 billion pledged by donors to help the impoverished Caribbean nation rebuild after the 2010 has been released.

An analysis of pledges made at a donor’s conference shortly after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake revealed that $2.79 billion, or 52.3 percent of the approximate $5.33 billion pledged by 55 donors for recovery activities between 2010 and 2012 have been disbursed.

Another 10 percent went toward grants that supported the UN, the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank. The rest went toward loans and budget support to the Haitian government.

The UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti is run by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. The bureau has been tracking the pledges made at an international donors’ conference in New York that came two months after Haiti’s massive earthquake in January 2010. The disaster displaced more than a million people, toppled thousands of buildings in the capital and other southern cities, killing an estimated 314,000 people.

Jamaica

The Ministry of Education in Jamaica is to implement a behavior-modification program in the wake of an increase in violence in the island’s public education institutions.

This was disclosed by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites hours after a l7-year-old student at a high school in Green Island, Hanover, allegedly stabbed three of his fellow students recently.

This followed several stabbing incidents involving students in schools last year.

Thwaites said the ministry is preparing to implement a significant program of behavior modification, which will involve the testing and early diagnosis of those children deemed to have tendencies of uncontrolled anger and for them to be properly treated.

Additionally, he said, to stem the crime, his ministry was emphasizing the Safe Schools Program as well as the need for deans of discipline to be given the powers of a special district constable so they can search for weapons and physically restrain persons where necessary.

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has dismissed calls by the main opposition United Workers party (UWP) for a further postponement of value added tax (VAT) in St. Lucia.

The UWP has been contending that the introduction of the tax on Oct. 1, is ill-timed due to a weak economy and a lack of public education.

The party has been staging a series of public meetings across the island in support of its call for the fiscal measure to be introduced in January next year.

But in a statement, Anthony said he was bemused at an “about face of the UWP on a policy that it had approved during its term in office.”

The prime minister said he is undeterred by a series of political meetings hosted to galvanize public support for a VAT deferment and reiterated that there would be no further delays to implement the VAT.

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says local authorities can find no record of any formal agreement indicating that St. Lucia had established diplomatic relations with Taiwan more than five years ago.

Anthony, who recently told the nation that his administration would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, told reporters that the “clandestine manner” in which Castries and Taipei established diplomatic relations in April 2007 “has left lingering question” for citizens here.

Reading from a letter Anthony said was written in November last year by former Prime Minister Stephenson King to former Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou, he cited an instance in which the former prime minister made reference to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries.

Anthony said the letter outlined a proposal for funding from Taiwan projects to be undertaken by the Vieux Fort Village Council at a cost of nearly EC$1 million.

He said that although his predecessor had cited the MOU in numerous instances of correspondence with the Taiwanese diplomat the authorities here have no such record of an agreement and that his administration will in future request a copy of the accord from King.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Finance Minister Lara Howai presented the largest budget of TT$58.405 billion in Parliament last week.

The budget, whose theme was “Stimulating Growth, Generating Prosperity” was described by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as a “people’s budget,” since there were no new taxes for the fiscal year 2012/2013.

The only price increase was that of premium gas, which has gone up from TT$4 to $5.75 per liter but super gasoline remains untouched.

Howai said revenue initiatives would include “reform” of the land and building tax regime “during the course of the next fiscal year” and “a comprehensive review of the entire tax system,” but gave no details.

He also announced a “rigorous review” of the social welfare programs “with a view of assisting comprehensively and cost effectively the differently-abled, senior citizens, single mothers and children and others in need of assistance.

He said that while the budget continues to be in deficit to the tune of over TT$7 billion in 2012, the public sector debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was stable and foreign direct investment continued to be buoyant and the country’s investment rating agencies confirmed these favorable assessments.

The budget is predicated on an oil price of US$80 a barrel and gas price of US$2.75 mcf. Revenue is estimated at TT$50.736 billion – $20 billion from oil revenue and $30.6 billion from non-oil revenue.

Among some of the measures in the budget are disability grant up to $1,500, Special Reserve Police officers to receive $1,000 allowance, maternity leave now 14 weeks, tax break on CCTV cameras, increase tax on casinos and housing relief.

The Ministry of National Security received the second largest allocation of $5.503.7 billion with education heading the list with $9,149.1 billion.

Trinidad

Fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney said he was shocked to hear on local television that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had given him the boot although he had offered his resignation.

‘I was thrown to the wolves with her (Persad-Bissessar) speech and it bore no reflection to our meeting that we had about an hour before her speech. It was very hurtful,” he said.

Volney who has been at the center of a raging controversy over the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011, (which can see accused people waiting for more than l0 years to have their cases heard to go free), said he was no liar and in fact was the sacrificial lamb to quell the public outrage over the proclamation Section 34.

Parliament moved swiftly recently to repeal the section.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar laid the blame for the fiasco squarely on Volney, saying he had misled the Cabinet when asked whether he consulted with the chief justice and the director of Public Prosecutions on the particular section.

Volney said there were others such as the DPP Roger Gaspard, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar to blame for remaining silent on Section 34 as they had every opportunity to voice concerns.

Trinidad

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has reserved its decision on the application by the Jamaica government to join the case of Shanique Myrie, who accused Barbados immigration officials of sexually assaulting her more than a year ago.

Jamaica’s application to intervene in the case was heard recently by a three-member panel of judges headed by CCJ president Sir Charles Byron via video link.

The application was made by Dr. Kathy-Ann Brown, deputy solicitor general and O’Neil Francis, crown counsel from the Attorney General’s Office. The lawyers argued that the application was made to protect the interest of the Jamaican people under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping.

Myrie claimed she was sexually assaulted by Barbadian officials when she arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14 last year. She said she was also subjected to forceful and brutish language by officials at the airport when she arrived. In April, the CCJ awarded legal cost to Myrie after the Barbadian government conceded she had a case. The Barbados government had earlier objected to the Jamaica government becoming a party to the law suit brought by Myrie.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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