U.S. health authorities have issued a travel advisory for the French Caribbean dependency of St. Martin because of a mosquito-borne viral disease that is apparently being spread locally at the start of the winter tourist season.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is closely following reports of the chikungunya virus among residents of the French side of a tiny island in the northeast Caribbean marketed as the Friendly Island.
It’s the first time the disease, typically found in Africa and Asia, has been reported in the Western Hemisphere among people who have not traveled recently, suggesting that the virus is now being carried by infected island mosquitoes.
“Microbes know no boundaries, and the appearance of the chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere represents another threat to health security,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.
The World Health Organization has reported 10 confirmed cases in tourism-dependent St. Martin, which splits the island with the Dutch constituent country of St. Maarten.
Bahamas police were kept busy over the Christmas season having to deal with a murder spree, which left four dead in a drive-by shooting in Nassau, Bahamas and several robberies and stabbings.
Police said they are seeking the public’s help for two suspects in the shooting deaths.
Police said a car approached a Nassau park on Friday Dec. 27, 2013 and those inside fired several shots before speeding off. Eleven people were wounded. Nassau’s New Providence Island has experienced a surge of violent crime in recent years. The U.S .Department of State says the incidents are not directed at tourists but could place innocent bystanders in jeopardy.
The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is calling for a reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) as well as a 30 per cent cut in the salaries of government ministers as it seeks to avert plans by the government to cut an estimated 3,000 public sector jobs in the New Year.
The Freundel Stuart administration said that the plan to cut public service jobs would result in the government saving as much as BDS$143 million and that the government had also agreed to institute a “strict program of attrition” across the central public service, filling posts only where it is absolutely unavoidable, over the next five years, ending 2018-2019.
“This attrition is expected to reduce central government employment levels from approximately 16,970 to 14, 612 jobs – a projected loss of 2,358 posts; and savings of BDS$121 million. Over the current 19-month adjustment period public sector employment will be reduced by an additional 501 jobs with a projected savings of BDS$26 million,” Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler said earlier this month. The government said that the first 2,000 job cuts would take place by Jan. 15, followed by others by March 1.
Dominica would need approximately EC$45 million to rebuild its infrastructure, following the passage of a low-level trough system recently that caused widespread damage and death in the Caribbean, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has said.
Skerrit, speaking to reporters after a special Cabinet meeting last week, said his administration had also agreed on several measures to ease the plight of citizens affected by the weather system that washed away bridges, damaged homes, business and roads.
“We are talking about a total sum, based on the advice on the Ministry of Public Works, to be in the area of EC$45 million (and) for rehabilitation of infrastructure and mitigation and to clean up, we talking about a project cost of EC$830,000.” He said.
Skerrit said Cabinet had agreed people whose homes had been damaged by the storm would receive 100 per cent assistance from the government. In addition, the government has also decided to pay rent for a limited period for some families who would have to be relocated, as well as provide school books and other educational material to students who suffered losses during the passage of the system.
A High Court judge has ruled against admitting a former member of the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) to the local bar.
Justice Margaret Price-Findley recently ruled against the request by Ewart Layne, even though members of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) had argued for his admittance during the hearing.
In her oral judgment, the judge made reference to Layne’s role in the collapse of the Grenada revolution, his subsequent conviction for murder and the time served in prison as the basis for her refusal.
Layne is one of the so-called Grenada 17 who served 25 years in prison for murdering then left wing prime minister Maurice Bishop and members of his PRG government. Others jailed were Bishop’s deputy Bernard Coard and his wife, Phyllis. Layne said that he would appeal the court ruling to the OECS Court of Appeal.
Guyana is seeking help from experts in Florida to help the South American country properly manage and develop its vast system of national parks. Environment Minister Robert Persaud said recently that he has held meetings with officials at the South Florida National Parks Trust.
Persaud said Guyana also wants to improve its environmental education campaigns and revise its policies to better protect and develop natural resources. Protected areas in Guyana include Kaieteur Falls, a scenic waterfall in the country’s central region that measures about 741 feet (226 metres).
The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) says it is providing a US$11 million grant to Haiti to assist the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country improve access to primary education and early childhood development.
The project, which will target poor children as well as enhance equity and governance of the education sector, will provide for tuition waivers, student nutrition and health, pre-service and in-service teacher training, school textbooks, multi-grade learning programs, and activities to improve student literacy skills.
It will also support community-based activities for school building and teacher training and will improve governance and enhance financial management and procurement skills within the ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, the CDB said in a statement. It said the project is an integral component of the National Education for All Strategy and would support the Operational Plan for Education articulated after the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.
The project is the second phase of the Education for All Program and will be funded jointly with the World Bank, the CDB added.
Seven police officers in Jamaica have been arrested and charged with extortion. The Jamaica Constabulary Force says the officers were detained and later taken before a resident magistrate’s court by detectives from the anti-corruption branch. The charges stem from allegations that the officers colluded to solicit money from a drug suspect. More specifics have not been disclosed.
The seven constables are free on bail. They are scheduled to appear in a Montego Bay court in early February on the extortion charges. It was not immediately clear if the accused have lawyers.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves recently met with Pope Francis, to discuss matters of common interest, according to members of his family, who met with the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The release said that the visiting head of government also met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
“The colloquial discussions focused on matters of common interest such as the defense of life and the family, education and interreligious dialogue,” the statement said, adding that “mention was made of various issues regarding the countries in the area and collaboration within the ambit of regional organizations.”
Two Jamaican nationals, who were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago in November, have filed an official complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jamaica.
In addition, three of the 13 nationals who were also refused entry into Port of Spain on Nov. 19, 2013 are exploring the possibility of seeking redress.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said in order to conduct further investigations, those who were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago had to submit a signed, written personal statement, outlining details of the incident.
The Ministry also urged nationals to submit such a report whenever they are refused entry into any CARICOM country.
The Nov. 19 incident led to a high-level meeting between Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and his Jamaican counterpart AJ Nicholson to implement the agreed CARICOM complaints procedure, which includes liaising with the CARICOM Single Market (CSME) Unit in Barbados.
Compiled by Azad Ali