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Antigua

Former Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird says he will continue to lead the opposition Antigua Labor Party (ALP) despite the “anxieties” among supporters regarding his health and age.

“I am still very much able to perform the tasks of the leader and would step aside any moment my doctors felt that such tasks were likely to exceed my limitations,” said Bird, 74, the island’s second prime minister.

In a statement, Bird said there would soon be a retreat of party leaders “in an effort to iron out many of the difficult issues that have causes some anxiety among supporters.”

“We are in the process of preparing the constituencies for a convention in the latter part of November, 2012, and placing the right men and women on the appropriate slots as candidates very shortly afterwards,” the statement said.

Bird, who was re-elected ALP leader in 2008, said that his vigor for the job could be seen in the various legal and other actions he has undertaken in challenging the authorities on a number of issues.

He reminded supporters that when he first became ALP leader, he bought with him more than two decades as a parliamentarian and an equal number of years as deputy premier and deputy prime minister.

He said with the next general election constitution due in March 2014, “I have readied myself to lead this heritage party to victory”.

Bahamas

Tax reforms, a mortgage relief program, and incentives to drive more foreign direct investment are among the new measures that the Bahamas government hopes will jump-start the slowing economy.

These measures among others were outlined in a statement issued Sept. 25 by the Ministry of Finance following the announcement by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) the same day that it was revising downward its outlook on Bahamas long-term rating from “stable” to “negative.” However, the U.S. ratings agency maintained its sovereign credit rating for The Bahamas at ‘BBA/A-2’.

The Ministry of Finance stated” “As S&P clearly articulates in their statement, this administration inherited a deteriorating fiscal situation where the deficit target was overshot by a wide margin. This was in addition to the absence of a credible plan for deficit and debt reduction or taxation reform by the former administra­tion”.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands has enacted new traffic laws and regulations, which introduce a ban on the use of mobile telephones while driving. Effective last month, it will be against the law to talk, text, instant message, etc. while driving.

Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said, “Too many people have become too accustomed to checking e-mail or sending text while behind the wheel, even though it’s as dangerous as drinking and driving.”

She noted that most countries throughout the world such as the UK and other European countries, New Zealand, Canada and the United States have banned cellphones while driving.

Drivers who have found to be in breach of the ban on cellphones while driving will face a $150 fine.

Haiti

Haiti’s Prime Minister has sued a Haitian-American weekly newspaper for defamation over its reporting on the sale of a telecommunications company acquired by the Haitian government.

In the recent lawsuit filed in Miami federal court, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and South Florida businessman Patrice Baker said Haiti-Observateur’s reporting on the sale of Haitel was “outrageous, scandalous and reminiscent of a tabloid publication.”

The Haitian telecom shut down earlier this year because it couldn’t pay its debts. It was then acquire by the Haitian government.

In an article written in French for Haiti-Observateur’s Sept. 12, 2012 edition, Joseph said Lamothe has not answered questions about the sale, though the prime minister has “cried, ‘defamation’ accusing Leo Joseph and the weekly of spreading of lies against him.

The newspaper has been publishing since 1971 and serves Haiti’s large diaspora communities in New York, Florida, Montreal and the Caribbean.

“The newspaper spread false information about the prime minister and we are taking legal measures to request that they be retracted or appropriate remedy is given,’ said Salim Succar, special adviser to Lamothe.

Jamaica

Hundreds of Jamaicans dressed in black, took to the streets across the island recently to protest the upsurge in violent crimes, particularly those against women and children.

The protest organized by the group, Woman Inc. had been prompted by the rape of four women and an eight-year-old girl recently by armed gunmen in the western parish of St. James. They were also protesting the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl who had been pregnant by her uncle.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting led protestors in the western city of Montego Bay and some of the protestors have called on the authorities to re-implement the death penalty.

“Government needs to re-implement the death penalty,” said Betty-Ann Blaine, New National Coalition founder, who joined more than 200 protestors in Half Way Tree on the outskirts of the capital, armed with placards denouncing the violent acts against women.

Police say investigations are continuing in connection with the rape of the eight-year-old child and four other women.

Jamaica

Jamaica Finance and Planning Minister Dr. Peter Phillips has disclosed that the government will be removing more posts from the public sector before the end of the year.

These positions are in addition to just over three positions that will be axed to reduce public sector wage bill.

While unable to say how many additional posts would be involved, Phillips said the process would be done without impairing the functions of the public bodies. He also said the posts to be removed would be those that are currently not filled.

Phillips said the removal of the positions would contribute to an overall reduction in the expenses because these positions are all funded posts.

Suriname

An attorney representing President Desi Bouterse said the allegations that he is involved in drugs are just a fabrication to hinder his attempts to quash a damning drug conviction.

Criminal lawyer Inez Weski said a motion to overturn Bouterse’s l999 drug conviction would be filed soon with the Court of Appeals in the Netherlands.

Dutch police recently reported that the word “Bouta,” the soubriquet by which Bouterse is known, was heard in a taped conversation of cocaine smuggler Piet Wortel.

Wortel was arrested a few months ago in Barcelona, Spain for involvement in large cocaine shipments. He reportedly said that “Bouta” would see to it that a drug plane which had crashed recently in Suriname’s hinterland, carrying 400 kilograms of cocaine, would be safe and that all “bouta” wanted in return was 200 kilograms of the drug.

But police said there were no reports of an aircraft crashing in the interior.

“The Netherlands is again trying to blacken Mr. Bouterse’s and Suriname’s reputation with a smear campaign, because they just cannot accept that Suriname is making economic advancement without their help,” said Foreign Minister Winston Lackin.

Bouterse, who led a military coup in February 1980, was convicted in absentia in l999 and given an 11-year sentence. He appealed the conviction but the Appellate Court confirmed the sentence in October 2001.

Bouterse has always maintained he is innocent, though saying the sentence was politically motivated by the Netherlands.

Following is electoral victory in 2010, the Netherlands immediately stopped development aid to Suriname, adding that Bouterse would only be welcomed to the European country if he is prepared to begin his jail term.

Suriname

Suriname’s Justice Minister Edward Belfort has questioned a recent report out of Jamaica that pointed to an increase in drug trafficking out of Suriname.

Recently Jamaica’s Commissioner of Customs, Major Richard Reece said there has been an increase in the number of persons from Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago who “ingest drugs, or have drugs in their luggage.”

“I don’t know if that information is true. Which drug mule would travel from Suriname to Jamaica,” said the minister, noting that there is no direct Suriname-Jamaica flight, which makes it quite a hassle to travel to that island.

“An unlikely destination for drug couriers,” said Belfort.

He also said authorities at Johan Adolf Pengel (JAP) Airport have stepped up security.

While admitting that there could be a drug-trafficking line between Suriname and some islands in the region, it is unlikely that drug traffickers from his country would enter Jamaica directly by air. However, he said reports of drug smuggling by sea are not unheard of and referred to a case in 2011 in which Jamaican authorities intercepted 250 kilograms of marijuana on board a ship from Suriname.

Belfort said that drug mules often use JAP Airport, but these are usually bound for Europe as there are several direct flights weekly to the Netherlands and Suriname.

Trinidad

Fired Justice Minister Herbert Volney said he will operate in Parliament as a United National Congress (UNC) MP, independent of instructions from the People’s Partnership Government whip.

He said his constituents wanted him to function as an independent.

Volney said his constituents are very hurt of his recent dismissal and they want him to speak freely in the House as a UNC MP but independent of the PP whip.

Volney was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for allegedly misleading Parliament over the proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act, which could have caused two financiers of the UNC and other persons accused in fraud and bid-rigging in the TT$1.6 billion Piarco International to apply to the High Court to have their cases dismissed because more than 10 years had passed. Since then, the section of the Act has been repealed.

Volney a former High Court judge resigned from the bench and joined the UNC to fight the May 24, 2010 general election. He won the St Joseph seat and was one of the PP’s 29 MPs.

Compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018:
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