The Caribbean Forum, which comprises the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping along with the Dominican Republic, will launch a five-year review of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) it signed with the European Union (EU) in 2008.
The announcement of this review comes at a time when members of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group are becoming increasingly vocal in their concerns over the proposal and timeline for implementation of the other agreements scheduled to be signed between the EU and the other regions within the ACP it has been negotiating EPAs with.
Concerns especially about the trade and development deal echoed throughout the seventh summit of the ACP heads when it took place in Equatorial Guinea in December 2012.
At that time, Irwin La Rocque, CARICOM’s secretary general said: “One of the things that we are looking forward to is the five-year review to see how it is doing. What has been the impact, not just on trade, but the whole impact on development because this is supposed to be a trade and development agreement.”
The Antigua and Barbuda government is seeking foreign assistance to boost the police’s crime fighting capabilities in the wake of the recent killing of a Guyanese mother of five, Susan Powell, and about a dozen shootings and a string of armed robberies in recent weeks.
Speaking during a national broadcast, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said, “I will contact our international partners and discuss the recent developments and request their assistance in providing technical and administrative resources to augment the capabilities of our police force.”
He did not disclose which international partners he intends to approach.
The government is known to reach out to Scotland Yard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in the past – as recent as October 2012 – whenever gun crime spiraled to alarming levels.
Spencer said that the government will fast-track the national closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance program announced in the 2013 budget.
Spencer, who told the nation he is distressed by recent developments, also said the government would be relentless in its fight against crime.
The prime minister said he hoped the “wanton” attacks were not orchestrated “by groups or elements within our society who are bent on creating chaos, insecurity and lawlessness.”
To those individuals, he issued a stern warning, “You will not succeed. Law abiding citizens and residents of this country will not allow you to succeed.”
He said that Cabinet fully supports the announcement by National Security Minister Dr. Errol Cort that all the necessary legal process needed to give effect to the death penalty, which is still part of the laws of Antigua & Barbuda, will be utilized.
Days after Bahamian police confiscated $800,000 worth of cocaine from a Haitian vessel off Inagua, officers seized $2 million worth of cocaine from another Haitian vessel off the same island.
The 128 kilos of cocaine seized is said to be the largest drug find for the year, according to Superintendent Samuel Butler, head of the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).
The drugs were taken to New Providence.
Police said DEU officers along with officers from Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) conducted a search of the 75-foot Haitian vessel “Poseidon” at Matthew Town, Inagua and discovered the drugs in various hidden compartments.
Five persons were arrested – one Bahamian and four Haitians.
The arrest came after police held six Haitians who were allegedly caught at Great Inagua with 49 kilos of cocaine. They were on board an 89-foot vessel named “Trinity.”
Police said it is too early to say whether the two cases are connected.
In its last report, The U.S. Department of State identified Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations as major contributors to the drug trade in The Bahamas.
U.S. anti-drug agencies estimate that there are 12 to 15 significant drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas.
Police in Guyana have charged a boat captain with manslaughter following a collision in December that killed six people.
Hytilall Ramamadahin was granted Guy$3,000 bail when he appeared in court on recently. His case was adjourned until later this month.
Ramamadahin was captain of a boat that crashed into another on a river bordering Venezuela.
The charges came two weeks after another boat collision in which five people died and four remain missing.
No one has been charged in that case. The collision occurred about 25 miles from the mining town of Bartica.
A Regional High Level Symposium in International Maritime Developments was recently held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, resulted in an agreement among Caribbean transport ministers to develop regional policies for maritime transportation to ensure that the Caribbean maritime industry operates in a sustainable manner.
Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Koji Sekimizu, hailed the move.
“This is significant. What they have achieved today was a sort of collective willingness to achieve sustainable maritime in the Caribbean region,” he said.
He noted that the Rio+20 summit held in Brazil last year had established the way forward in terms of environmental sustainability, but “you cannot talk about sustainable development without shipping. We therefore want to ensure that the shipping itself will be sustainable.”
The high-level meeting, held over four days at the Iberostar Beaches Hotel, brought together ministries and senior officials from the Caribbean maritime sector to discuss critical developments that will affect their countries’ reputation as responsible maritime states.
Among the issues discussed were opportunities for capacity building, and maritime labor convention.
The Trinidad and Tobago government spent an estimated TT$90 million (US$15 million) on this year’s Carnival celebration.
This was revealed by Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr. Lincoln Douglas who said it was money well spent, as the festival was a success.
He stated that the Carnival had grown in all areas and its success should not be judged by a few empty seats in the stands at certain events.
Douglas noted that the regional Carnival increased significantly.
He said the authorities were successful in decentralizing Carnival. He cautioned, however, that there was still need for improvement in certain areas.
The minister is supporting a call by seven-time band of the year winner Brian McFarlane for bigger incentives to be given to encourage bandleaders to do more to improve mas in Carnival.
MacFarlane said the first prize should be increased from TT$300,000 (US$50,000) to TT$3 million (US$500,000).
However, Douglas said he wished the money could be found to increase the prizes.
Investigations are continuing into the discovery of 314 kilograms of cocaine valued US$11 million from among a quantity of lumber for shipment to the Netherlands.
The operation at the Guyana Timber Products Incorporated Sawmill at Soesdyke, East Bank, Demerara was carried out by agents of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Drug Enforcement Unit.
According to reports, the exporter was prevented from exporting the products to Europe last year by the Guyana forestry commission for not following required procedures for the export of forest produce.
Reports indicate that one Dutch national and five Guyanese were detained. The drug bust is said to be the largest dent in Guyana’s drug trade so far for 2013.
In recent months, millions of dollars worth of cocaine stashed in fish food, canned coconut milk and powdered detergent have been intercepted.
In December, 325 kilos of cocaine valued US$10 million were seized in soap powder.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has called for the resumption of the death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago in wake of the escalating murders and gruesome killings in the country over the past few weeks.
Ramlogan told reporters recently that the government’s efforts are being stymied by the opposition’s refusal to support the initiative.
He said the government was committed to the death penalty, but needed the necessary support.
The attorney general said on three occasions the government had asked the opposition for its proposals “on how this can be done” since they are not opposed to the death penalty.
“I want to renew that request to the leader of the opposition. The death penalty is one that remains a sore point for the public,” he said.
Ramlogan believes the time has come to pass tough legislation and to consider the removal of trial by juries.
Over the past week, the government has announced several crime fighting measures – from the reintroduction of joint army/police patrols, the use of the army to fight crime and now the abolition of jury trials for blood crime.
Ramlogan noted that several countries operated without a jury system and there was no downgrade. He listed Singapore, India and Holland as some countries.
He said the government can no longer allow a minority of criminals to hold the country to ransom.
Compiled by Azad Ali