Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

One day after taking up the position as Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Yida International Investment Antigua Ltd to pave the way for a two-billion investment project in the twin-island state.

According to a government press release, the MOA emerged after an eight-hour session of negotiations on Saturday June 14, 2014.

Yida International is expected to invest over $200 million annually in the economy over the next l0 years, as well as provide an Antigua & Barbuda presence in the People’s Republic of China to attract additional economically viable investments.

Prime Minister Browne said, “I promised the people that my administration would bring the type of investments to the country that will transform Antigua & Barbuda into an economic powerhouse and I am serious about that promise.”

“The Memorandum of Agreement is the result of our determination to work in the interest of the people of the country,” he added.

Yida investors say the initiative will see the transformation of Guiana Island and surrounding lands via the construction of five-star hotels.

Thirteen hundred (1,300) residential units, a casino, conference center, 27-hole golf course, marina and landing facilities, as well as a commercial, retail and sports facility will also be built.

Guyana

The Guyana government is urging students to repay loans granted for their higher education even as it indicated that it would continue to meet the expenses despite the cut in budget allocation this year.

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said that while the government is reviewing the Guy $450 million allocation in the budget for the loan scheme, he however, lamented that the current level of repayment of the loans is unsatisfactory and that measures were being contemplated in terms of alternative courses of action to encourage greater level of compliance.

A government statement said that over the years, a vast majority of the student population at the University of Guyana have benefited from student loans and that large percentage of new entries continue to apply for this facility.

The loan facility is designed to assist Guyanese students, who, otherwise, would not have been able to pursue tertiary education in a field of their choice and in so doing, secure a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Grenada

The World Trade Organization (WTO) will conduct a Thir5d Trade Policy (TPR) on member countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which will take place in Geneva this week.

The TTR process is mandated by Annex 3 of the Marrakech Agreement which forms part of the WTO body of agreements.

Developing countries such as those in the OECS grouping are mandated to undergo a TPR every six years.

The WTO said the purpose of the TPR is to contribute to improved adherence by all members to rules, discipline and commitments made under the multilateral trade agreements and, where applicable, the plurilateral trade agreements, to ensure the smoother functioning of the multilateral trading system, by achieving greater transparency in, and understanding of, the trade policies and practices of member states.

Grenada’s Ambassador to the WTO, Dr. Patrick Antoine, will deliver a statement on behalf of the OECS that comprises Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Kitts-Nevis at the opening of the TPR.

Haiti

Law enforcement officials are searching for seven prisoners who escaped from a police station in Petit Goave injuring a police officer in the process.

The authorities said that one of the prisoners had thrown a liquid in the face of the officer as he opened the cell door to attend to another inmate who had requested help.

The officer was wounded as the prisoners sought to take his firearm during their escape recently.

The authorities have named the seven escapees, noting that three others who came to his assistance had refused to flee the prison.

Jamaica

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will pay a visit to Jamaica by the end of this month.

This is according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, which said a delegation headed by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde will hold meetings with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips and other senior government officials.

The IMF director will also participate in several outreach activities before departing on June 28.

“The visit by the managing director of the IMF underscores the Fund’s support for Jamaica’s Economic Reform Program, and signals its commitment to assisting the wider Caribbean,” the Finance Ministry said.

In May, an IMF review mission to Jamaica concluded that the country’s overall economic performance under the program remains strong and the economic outlook is improving.

Suriname

Police are investigating the death of a 10-year-old boy who ate biscuits covered with rat poison in the Maroon village of Djoemoe on the upper Suriname River recently.

Police said that Vigo Gaga went to his grandmother’s house while she was away and found the crackers smeared with what looked like colorful sandwich filling.

The filling, however, turned out to be rat poison that the grandmother had left as a trap for mice.

The boy died shortly after eating the poison and police officers had to travel to the remote village to carry out investigations.

St. Kitts

Police have arrested a member of a cruise vessel of a sexual offence allegedly committed in the territorial waters of St. Kitts-Nevis.

Police said in a statement they had conducted an investigation into an allegation of a sexual offence which was committed on the ship on Friday June 6, 2014 in collaboration with the captain and crew of the Carnival Valor Cruise Line.

The statement said an intense collaborative investigation took place on the vessel into the sexual offence, which was allegedly committed on a passenger and lead to the arrest and charges against a crew member.

Trinidad

President of the Caribbean Court of Justice Sir Dennis Byron says the region must get serious about crime, noting that certainty of punishment is a more effective punishment than severity of punishment.

Therefore, he said, it is necessary to increase crime detection and have trials take place closer to the committal of the offence.

He was at the time speaking on the Dana Seethahal Symposium; Reengineering the Criminal Justice System at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

The conference took place on the 40th day of Senior Counsel Seetahal’s murder in Woodbrook, Port of Spain as she was on her way home.

To date, no one has been arrested for Seetahal’s murder.

Noting that the regional crime detection rate was about l0 percent, Sir Byron compared this to New York, USA where with a population of about 8.5 million, had in July 2013 a detection rate for serious offences of 80 to 90 percent.

“We in our region have serious work to do. Technology must become the handmaiden of the police in addressing serious crime.

“Wireless surveillance, GPS systems, PDA devices, in-car computers must enhance and eventually replace police reports, station diaries and eye witness testimonies,” he said.

Sir Byron said it was necessary to couple investment in technology with adequate training, that this would not only assist in crime detection but prevention as well.

Jamaica

The Supreme Court of Jamaica has granted an in junction barring the dismissal of Professor Brendan Bain as the director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Training Network until his case against the University of the West Indies (UWI) is heard.

Bain, who is challenging the termination of his contract, wants the court to award damages.

The move by the UWI to dismiss Bain followed concerns by gay rights groups across the region testimony by the professor two years ago in a high-profile case in Belize.

His dismissal had sparked widespread public debate, resulting in several protests involving church and lobby groups, which called for a reversal of the university’s decision.

In the claim, Bain outlined 15 grounds on which he is seeking the order. Among them are that he was issued with a termination letter though his employers had expressed trust and confidence in him.

It said the letter was issued on the basis of a disagreement with expert testimony given by him in the Supreme Court of Belize in 2012.

He argues the disagreement and consequent termination conflicts with his right to freedom of expression, thought and conscience.

Trinidad

Government is moving to clamp down on computer “hacking,” which National Security Minister Gary Griffith described as “mailbox politics.”

Persons who engage in the unauthorized transmission or sharing e-mail messages would now find themselves in breach of the law and can face a fine of TT$1 million or five years imprisonment.

A week after Housing Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal accused the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) of ‘hacking” into their e-mails, Griffith piloted the act to provide for the creation of offences related to cybercrime and an act for the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Cyber Security Unit in the House of Representatives recently.

Griffith said the bill would create the offence of “illegally accessing a computer system, whereby a person intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification accesses a computer system for the purpose of securing computer data.”

In May last year, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley exposed several e-mail exchanges allegedly among top government ministers.

But the Trinidad and Tobago Broadcasters Association (TTBA) is calling on the government to engage the media associations and other stakeholders to redraft and revise the current Cybercrime Bill.

The Association said in a press release that the potential existed for the media to be muzzled and the profession of investigative journalism undermined if the law is passed.

The bill requires a special majority to be passed in Parliament.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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