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Caribbean

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission is now calling for the removal of roaming fees within its nine-member grouping.

Roaming fees are additional charges attached to mobile phone calls made or received beyond a specified geographical jurisdiction.

“We’re not talking about the fancy marketing glitz of something called roaming or anything like that. We want the removal of roaming,” said OECS Director Dr. Didacus Jules.

The countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) form a single economic union, but citizens still pay roaming fees between Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

Antigua

Eleven convicts who were serving time for various “minor” offences at Her Majesty’s Prison on Antigua and Barbuda were recently freed.

This was disclosed by Minister for Public Safety, Stedroy “Cutie” Benjamin.

The 11 comprised one woman, Wendy Tavanier and l0 men.

The passage in parliament of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act 2014, in November, paved the way for the convicts to be released.

Under the Act, those with convictions dating back to 2003 and onward would have the time spent on remand awaiting committal, trial and/or sentencing, discounted from the jail sentence imposed by the court.

Those released were serving time of offences ranging from larceny to possession of marijuana and use of threatening language.

Bahamas

The Court of Appeal in the Bahamas has once again dealt a blow to attempts by legislators to define which offenses are eligible for death.

In its recent ruling in the case of Anthony Jerome Clarke, the Court of Appeal said that a contract killing does not necessarily fall in the category of the worst of the worst.

Last year, the case of Mario Flowers, the court ruled that the murder of a policeman acting in the execution of his duty was not a death eligible offense.

The former government in 2011 passed legislation that designated the murder of a policeman and contract killings as death eligible offenses.

Murders committed during a felony were also defined as death eligible.

Clarke killed Aleus Tilus in September 2011 after luring him to an establishment in Gambie under the guise of having a sandwich with him.

Clarke was paid $5,000 by Tilus’s former employers, according to evidence. Tilus was shot three times.

The court upheld Clarke’s conviction and he is waiting resentencing.

Flowers was resentenced to 29 years in prison for the murder of Constable Ramos Williams.

Barbados

The Barbados government says it is hopeful that the island’s economy will rebound by 2016.

A government statement reporting on a meeting between Prime Minister Frenduel Stuart and former President of the Republic Of Chile, Sebastien Pinera in Bridgetown said that economic growth will allow Barbadians who made the necessary sacrifices to reap the benefits.

“During the discussion on the global economic crisis and its impact on Barbados, Pinera said Chile was following what was happening here and the country, seemed to be doing well,” the statement said. Prime Minister Stuart said his administration is working on getting its fiscal deficit down to manageable levels, pointing to a 19-month stabilization program put in place.

But he said it has now been extended by one year so as to ensure that the gains the country had been making were not reversed.

Stuart was quoted in the statement as saying that the island was beginning to feel the effects of the falling oil prices.

He said that the Barbadian economy was expected to grow by two percent this year with the Central Bank reporting that fiscal adjustment measures have reduced the deficit by two percent. The Central Bank reporting that fiscal adjustment measures have reduced the deficit by nearly one percent of gross domestic product (GDP) so far this fiscal year.

Cayman Island

Cayman Islands Premier Alden Mc Laughlin said recently that while overall unemployment appears to be tapering off, particularly among the Caymanian labor force, the number of work permits held by non-Caymanians has begun to grow.

According to McLaughlin, total unemployment in Cayman is expected to fall from 6.3 percent in the mid 2013 to 5.9 percent in mid-2015 and eventually shrink to 4.9 percent in mid-2018.

Meanwhile, the total number of work permits held in Cayman as of January 2015, including government contracts and workers awaiting word on permanent residence applications, was 21,403. That’s up eight percent from January 2014 and up five percent.

“All data indicate that unemployment is falling and is projected to continue to fall over the next few years as projects come on stream and as we get more people into jobs, He said at the recent annual State of the Nation address adding “an increase in work permits is a clear indication that the economy is rebounding, that employers are hiring”.

Haiti

Protestors clash with police last week over high fuel costs that left several people injured.

The clashes follow the decision by the police to remove roadblocks in the capital set up by the anti-government protestors.

Earlier, newly installed Prime Minister Evans Paul had said the government would move to assure the safety of law abiding citizens after the protestors had warned people to remain off the streets.

Paul said the government cannot lower the price of gas. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s because we are not able to,” he added .

Recently the government announced a reduction in fuel prices, reducing gasoline to 95 gourdes (US$4.25) per gallon from 215 gourdes ($4.62).

The government said the protests would damage the country’s economy and create “devastating consequences for the most vulnerable people in our population.”

Jamaica

A 28-year-old Jamaican man from the western parish of St. James was recently ordered extradited to the United States for lottery scamming activities.

U.S. prosecutors alleged Damion Bryan Barett is part of a criminal network that fleeced millions of dollars from U.S. citizens in the lottery scam.

The extradition order was handed down after Barrett waived his right to challenge his extradition.

Barrett, who was arrested recently, will stand trial on two counts of wire fraud.

Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

St. Lucia

The French overseas department of Martinique will become an associate member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), according to an official statement released in Castries.

The St. Lucia-based OECS Commission said Martinique signed the necessary agreement earlier this month, increasing the nine-member sub-regional grouping to 10.

“Martinique’s pending membership of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States follows a period of negotiations after the Regional Council of Martinique submitted a formal application for associate membership in the OECS with full support/endorsement of the French government,” said the OECS Commission.

In November 2013, the Regional Assembly voted unanimously in favor of the island’s membership of the OECS.

OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules describes as “historic” the island’s pending membership of the sub-regional grouping.

Trinidad

In the midst of a police investigation into allegations of witness tampering by former Attorney General Anand Ramlogn, a fourth Cabinet reshuffle just a few months before a general election, and the firing of two People’s Partnership (PP) ministers, a recent poll has shown that if a general election were called now, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar would be the top choice for Trinidad and Tobago’s next Prime Minister over the People’s National Movement (PNM) leader Dr. Keith Rowley.

However, the UWI/ANSA poll also revealed that voters would support the PNM over the United National Congress (UNC) or PP government because the PNM was seen as the most experienced party in existence.

While Persad-Bissessar was credited with doing a good job and trying to improve the lives of citizens in the last 57 months, she was given the thumbs down for lack of leadership skills, not following up on election promises and failing to be more assertive with her Cabinet.

Those polled felt that Dr. Rowley could achieve first world status and has true courage and leadership.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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