Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Jan. 10th

Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Barbados has suffered its biggest tourism challenge yet as result of the ongoing sewage mess on the island’s south coast with Canada issuing a travel advisory in light of the worrying issue. The government in Ottawa, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, issued the safety and security warning advising its residents to avoid the affected area.  “The south coast of Barbados, between Hastings and St. Lawrence areas, is experiencing an overflow of raw sewage due to a mechanic al breakdown.  Avoid the affected area and follow the instructions of local authorities”, the statement on the travel and tourism section of the government’s website stated.    The warning comes at a time when when tourism officials in Barbados were salivating over the prospects of another record year in 2016 with Canada as a major  contributor. However, the tourism belt on the south coast has been plagued by the perennial sewage problems dating back more than a year. Director of Gentle Breeze Apartments, Jackquelynn Jones said on a Barbados Today blog three days ago that it has been happening “for more than three years, probably closer to five” – as raw faeces can often be seen floating on the road particularly after heavy rainfall.  The leaks, which began sporadically, have reached crisis levels, according to the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and have made it uncomfortable for residents and those traversing the area and well as businesses and visitors.

A split has emerged within the labour movement over the latest demand by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) for an immediate and successful end to wage talks with government.  The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is suggesting that the NUPW was a bit hasty in giving the Freundel Stuart administration until next Tuesday to conclude talks which have been ongoing for two years.  Cognisant that Parliament must be dissolved by the end of March this year, NUPW President Akanni McDowall told Barbados Today that his union was not about to squander its chances of securing a salary increase for its members by allowing the matters to drag on until Stuart finally decides to ring the election bell.  However, BUT President Pedro Shepherd says the NUPW, the largest public sector union on the island, was grasping at too many issues at once and should give the process more time to work.  Shepherd argued that the sister union should first complete negotiations on government’s offer of a lump sum pay out of $49 million as a coping subsidy for public workers.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

A Cabinet, which takes place today at Jamaica House and is scheduled to end on Friday, will look at several current issues, including the public sector wage dispute and national security.  Prime Minister Andrew Holness has had telephone conversations with leading various bodies representing the employees and has assured them that the matters will be carefully examined at the retreat.

Dateline St. John’s, ANTIGUA:

Hundreds of voters in Antigua and Barbuda have registered for the next general election in the last three months of 2017.  Based on the data provided by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) 153 voters registered in October, Antigua News Room reported.  In November, that figure nearly tripled witgh 578 new registrants.  The number remained high in December when 454 Antiguans and Barbudans registered to vote.  It is believed that talk of an early general election is what led to the apparent spike in registration.  ABEC also decentralized several registration stations making it easier for residents to register within their communities.  In addition, the main political parties have been urging their supporters to register early to vote.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Late last year, The Bahamas Parliament passed a version of economic registry legislation, the Commercial Enterprises Act, 2017, which has raised concerns locally as to the law’s potential to lead to citizenship.  Proponents of the law, including Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and former Deputy Prime Minister and now minister of investments and immigration, Brent Symonette, cite the need to revitalize the flagging financial services industry and increase economic activity for a sluggish Bahamian economy.  The Act allows a fast-track of work permits for foreign direct investment amounts of US$250,000 and above, on the assumption that once applied for and no objection has been registered within 14 days, the work permit is assumed to be approved. However, the Act’s opponents claim it is simply a back door to economic citizenship, following a trend of Caribbean countries that have gone the route of direct economic citizenship and/or the sale of diplomatic passports.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Some criminal defence attorneys are threatening legal action against Chief Justice Ivor Archie.  They have expressed concern over a decision made by Archie to amend the newly-implemented Criminal Procedure Rule (CPR) by issuing a practice direction last month that would mandate those charged with criminal offences to disclose their defence to the prosecution even before their matters proceed to trial.  So concerned are the criminal defence lawyers that yesterday a pre-action protocol letter was issued to Archie, threatening judicial review proceedings should it not be removed from the original set of rules.

Dateline Caracas, VENEZUELA:

Venezuela’s Opposition-controlled legislature said Monday that inflation in the economically-struggling nation reached a staggering 2,600 percent last year.  The figure underlines the problems besetting Venezuela, where food, medicines and basic goods are extremely short supply.  There have been recent instances of looting reported across the country.  Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, but low production by the state oil monopoly and the global drop in crude prices have thrown the Latin American country into crisis.

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