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Six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have been included in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index that spotlights on freedom of information and its protagonist.

World Press Freedom (WPF) said the ranking of some countries had been affected by a tendency to interrupt national security needs in an overly broad and abusive, to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. The WPF said despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them.

It said this year’s index covers 180 countries, one more than last year. The new entry, Belize, has been assigned an enviable position (29th).

The other Caribbean countries ranked by WFP are Jamaica at 17, Antigua and Barbuda (36), Trinidad and Tobago (43), Haiti (47) and Guyana (67).

Barbados

Director of the Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies, Dr. Joan Latchman has warned regional countries to be prepared for a massive earthquake in the future.

This followed a recent 6.4 quake, the “biggest” ever to occur in the Barbados zone since 1980.

“There would be an earthquake we don’t expect to see for tens of years… In my analysis, this would be the first earthquake in this magnitude range since we have been recording about 1980,” she said of the quake which was felt in Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The seismologist said the strong quake was also a reminder that the Caribbean should not be complacent. She said there will be an increase in seismic activity.

The seismologist, who has long warned the region to expect a massive earthquake, cautioned this could still occur and insisted that Caribbean countries must be earthquake ready.

Haiti

The Clinton Foundation has approved a US$250,000 grant to a Haitian recycling plant that seeks to clean up the country’s dirty capital.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who heads the private foundation made the announcement during his recent two-day visit to the Caribbean nation, where he used to serve as a United Nations special envoy.

His foundation focused on bringing on investors to Haiti.

The grant goes to Sustainable Recycling Solutions, a business founded in 2012 by a team of Haitian business leaders and foreign aid workers that pays hundreds of Haitian to collect recyclable materials from trash heaps and landfills.

The scraps are then sorted by tape and turned into new summer products such as clothes, lumber, furniture and toys.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s Parliament has approved legislation outlawing membership into criminal gangs as authorities move to deal with the spate of criminal activity, particularly murder, on the island.

The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organization) Act 2014 was recently passed with 22 amendments and defining criminal organizations as any gang, group, alliance network, combination, or other arrangements among three or more persons that has as one of its purposes the commission of one or more serious offences.

It also lists a criminal gang as having persons “engaged in unlawful activity or indirectly, a financial or material benefit or to gain power or influence in communities, or over other persons.”

Attorney General Patrick Atkinson told legislators the society has become tired of gangsters.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting acknowledged there had been many changes to the legislation since it was first introduced.

St. Lucia

Two months after the devastating Christmas Eve rains, St. Lucia continues to receive financial and technical support from allies and humanitarian organizations worldwide.

India is the latest financial contributor to St. Lucia’s rehabilitation efforts, with a donation of US$500,000.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony expressed thanks, for such a generous donation on behalf of the government and People of St. Lucia.

“I am deeply heartened by the response of the international community, I continue to use every occasion to seek assistance for St. Lucia, as there is still work to be done in some areas,” he said.

“India’s contribution of US$500,000 is very timely. I wish to publicly thank the Prime Minister of Indian Manmohan Singh and the people of India, for responding to St. Lucia’s plea for assistance.”

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has launched its e-passport, saying the document is even more secure than the machine-readable passport launched in 2005.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the e-passport has a lot of enhanced security features – tamper-proof, with a chip embedded in the page, storing data. And in these ways and others, “we are keeping ahead of the criminal elements who want to abuse our passports.”

He said the issuance of the e-passport is in keeping with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) security resolution 1624 of 2005, which, he said, sought to enhance the security of the country’s travel documents.

Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines switched to machine-readable passports in 2005 and there have been no reports of tampering with the document.

The passport will be valid for 10 years for people older than 18 years, and will cost EC$150.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago National Gas Company (NGC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese company, ENN Group, for the provision of advice to help ensure the successful implementation of NGC’s five-year, TT$500 million, compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion plan.

The MoU was signed by NGC chairman Roopchan Chadeesingh and ENN Group President Cheung Yipsang at a ceremony at the Grand Hyatt Beijing, China recently.

ENN Group, one of China’s largest private companies, was established in Hebei Province, China in 1989 and is now often referred to as a clean-energy export

Cheung said ENN, which has more than 15 years of experience operating CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelling stations in China, who was honored “to have this opportunity to co-operate with NGC.”

Jamaica

Jamaica’s opposition Senator Robert “Bobby” Montague has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Senator AJ Nicholson to press the Barbadian government to pay Jamaican Shanique Myrie the nearly $4 million in damages she was awarded by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) last year.

“Let us insist that Miss Shanique Myrie be paid the funds the court has ordered,” he told the Senate during his contribution to the 2014 State of the Nation Debate.

Myrie, in 2011 on a visit to Barbados, was detained at the Grantley Adams International Airport and subsequently deported after being subjected to an illegal body cavity search and what she said was demeaning treatment.

She filed a suit against the Barbadian government but is yet to receive the US$38,620 in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages that the CCJ awarded her in October 2013.

Trinidad

Nine members of “an Orthodox Hasidic Jewish group” from Canada were denied travel to Guatemala in an alleged attempt to flee Canada when they arrived at Piarco International Airport last week.

The six adults and three children were prevented from traveling to Guatemala days before members of the religious group in Chatam-Kent, Canada, where a decision was expected to be made concerning whether 14 Lev Tahor children were to be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.

According to a report from the Toronto Sun, “ the Jewish sect, distinguished by its conservative dress, fled Quebec in the dead of the night last November, amid allegations – not proven in court- of child neglect and abuse, including arranged marriages of children as young as 14.”

Compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 2:52 pm, March 7, 2014
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