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Last updated: 29 February, 2008 - Published 14:44 GMT
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The week's news in brief
Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit
Dominica PM is the only CARICOM leader to sign for Venezuela's ALBA scheme

Dominica slams 'terror island' article

Dominica's Ambassador to the UN Crispin Gregoire has denounced a speculative article by the Washington-based Think-Tank - the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

The COHA piece suggests that Dominica could face a tough time if Republican John McCain becomes the next US president.

It says Mr McCain is likely to frown on Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's ties with Venezuela and Cuba.

The article also claims that Dominica could be viewed by the US as the next terror island, as Grenada under Maurice Bishop was seen by the then Reagan administration.

Mr Gregoire told BBC Caribbean he “completely rejects the label of our country as the Caribbean’s next terror island.”

“We are not a terrorist island, we have no terrorist activities on our soil,” he said.

SVG rape case

A High Court Judge in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will deliver a ruling on March 11 on whether the court will review a prosecutor's decision to drop a rape case against Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Last month, a 36-year-old policewoman swore to a statement before the Chief Magistrate, that she was indecently assaulted by Dr Gonsalves at his official residence.

The Prime Minister has denied the allegations.

The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently discontinued the case, citing a lack of evidence.

The woman's lawyers have asked the high court to order a judicial review of that decision.

After hearing arguments on Thursday, Justice Gertel Thom set the date for a ruling.

Among the lawyers involved in the case are Barbadian Sir Richard Cheltenham representing the Director of Public Prosecutions and Dominican Anthony Astaphan for the attorney general.

Suriname Jungle Warfare School

The government of Suriname has confirmed that it is planning to establish a permanent Jungle Warfare School for foreign countries to train their troops.

Suriname has been hosting the US and Dutch armies for special jungle training for some years.

Defense minister Ivan Fernald said his countries army was “one of the most skilled and approved in the region, and given the geographical circumstances” we have something to offer that they don’t have,” he said.

Earlier this month, just weeks before members of the Dutch army and Marine Corps arrived in Suriname for a jungle training Mr Fernald discussed further Defense cooperation with his Dutch counterpart Ernst van Middelkoop.

Suriname denies that it offered the Netherlands the possibility to establish a permanent military base specialized in survival skills and operational tactics in jungle environments.


Liat loses pilots

LIAT says its operations have suffered a significant knock, following the resignation of a number of its crew and pilots.

liat check-in desk
Liat is trying to cope with its latest setback

This development has forced the regional airline to cut back on its schedule in a bid to cope with the problem.

Liat has confirmed that it lost six of its pilots to Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines, which has been seeking replacements after some of its own pilots left to work with Middle East carriers.

"Obviously that puts a hole in our programme" Liat's CEO Mark Darby told BBC Caribbean.

Opposition wants spy probe

The Opposition National Democratic Congress in Grenada wants the authorities to call in Britain's Metropolitan Police, or Scotland Yard, over a political spying row.

The party wants the Yard to investigate claims that a police officer spied on a private meeting of its executive.

One newspaper publisher, Leslie Pierre of the Grenada Voice newspaper, says he finds it hard to agree with the opposition's suggestions that Prime Minister Keith Mitchell's ruling New National Party could be behind the alleged spying.

The police officer at the heart of that controversy has complained to authorities that he was detained against his will, beaten and some of his personal property confiscated.

The police commissioner Winston James has ordered an investigation into the incident.

Fresh calls for political change in Cuba

Germany has called on Cuba's new president Raul Castro to introduce political reform.

German president Horst Koehler in a congratulatory message, urged Mr Castro to undertake such reform and to make progress on human rights.

Mr Koehler added that he hoped political changes would make it possible to improve European relations with Cuba.

The Cuban parliament on 24 Feb named Raul president, ending nearly 50 years of rule by his elder brother Fidel.

Traumatic holiday for Briton

Newspapers in London say a British holidaymaker is recovering in a hospital in the Dominican Republic after having his penis nearly sliced off.

The 43-year old is said to have told police that strangers burst into his hotel room and performed what one paper called a "bobbitt" job -- a reference to the 1993 story in which the wife of American John Bobbitt cut off his manhood and threw it away.

Dominican police are said to have made a number of arrests.


Osborne faces expulsion

Montserrat's volcano
Political rifts on the volcano-ravaged island

Montserrat's former Chief Minister John Osborne is facing expulsion from the party he formed 30 years ago - the New Peoples Liberation Movement.

Mr Osborne says the members have no authority to expel him from the party.

But NPLM chairman Idabelle Meade told BBC Caribbean there were good reasons for taking that decision.

She said Mr Osborne had himself taken a decision to expel her and her colleague, Margaret Dyer-Howe, without consulting with the party.

She said Mr Osborne had also indicated he was planning to retire shortly, and the party felt it was in their best interest to move forward without him.

SVG murder accused freed

The man accused of the murder of the St Vincent prime minister's press secretary Glen Jackson, on Wednesday walked out of court a free man.

Mr Jackson died of a single gunshot to the back in March 2006.

Justice Bruce Lyle had earlier this week ruled that investigators had not followed the proper procedure, and that a confession allegedly obtained by the police from Francis "Prickle" Williams was not admissible.

Justice Lyle later advised the twelve-member jury to return a not guilty verdict.

Dominica Speaker wins in court

Dominica's Speaker of parliament on Wednesday said she felt vindicated, after a court ruled in her favour in a case brought by the opposition United Workers Party.

Following a verbal confrontation in the House in January of last year, the Speaker ordered six UWP parliamentarians suspended from the House.

They were protesting that their questions placed on the order paper had been changed by Speaker Alix Boyd-Knights.

Mrs Boyd-Knights said at the time that she'd made the changes because some parts of the questions did not conform with the Standing Orders of the House.

Justice Davidson Baptiste heard the case last June, and on Wednesday he ruled that the actions of the Speaker were in order.

Opposition leader Earl Williams said taking the parliamentary option open to the opposition MPs would have handed the governing Labour Party another victory.

He said the UWP's case was in pursuit of natural justice.

Former minister goes to court

A former junior minister in Jamaica charged with fraud goes before the courts in Kingston on Thursday.

Kern Spencer, 33, is charged along with his former personal assistant Coleen Wright and businessman Rodney Chin, in connection with the running of a light bulb distribution programme.

Mr Spencer is charged with three counts of conspiracy to defraud from July 2006 to September 2007.


"No military alliance"

The Prime Minister of Dominica has again sprung to the defence of his country's membership of ALBA, a Venezuelan-backed political and economic multi-national agreement.

Roosevelt Skerrit described it as an aid cooperation accord which will bring benefits to Dominica.

He accused the local opposition of scaremongering over its claims about ALBA.

Specifically, he denied that Dominica will be part of any Alba military alliance.

Guyana bullish over Cuba

Guyana's international cooperation minister, Henry Jeffrey, has expressed optimism that relations with Cuba will grow under the new Cuban president, Raul Castro.

Dr Jeffrey, speaking at a Cuba-Caricom forum in Georgetown, said also that Havana will continue to receive the backing of his country and the Caribbean for the removal of American sanctions against Cuba.

Meanwhile US presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton has said Washington and its allies must encourage the new Cuban leader to introduce democratic reforms.

The Democratic contender was campaigning in Washington ahead of Texas and Ohio primaries next week.

UN campaigns against violence

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a global campaign to intensify efforts to end violence against women.

According to the UN, the most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner.

World Bank data shows that women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence, than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria.

St Kitts focuses on health

The cabinet of St Kitts and Nevis has approved a new National Strategic Health Plan, designed to improve the health of the citizens of the federation.

It covers a wide area, including financing, manpower, chronic diseases, mental health, substance abuse and research.

The plan was prepared with assistance from PAHO.

School locks banned

The education minister in Barbados has said the law on school attire may have be clarified after students at a state-run trade school were suspended for wearing locks.

The school is reported to have demanded that the students present evidence that they are Rastafarians to be readmitted.

Also recently in Barbados, a newly-appointed young Senator caused a stir by turning up to parliament with his hair in cornrows.#

Edwards for English county

The English county side Worcestershire have signed West Indies pace man Fidel Edwards as their overseas player for the second half of the 2008 season.

Edwards will be involved in the West Indies Test series with Australia during the first part of the English campaign.

The 26-year-old will arrive at New Road at the beginning of July.

Worcestershire Director of cricket Steve Rhodes said he was delighted to be able to get someone of Edwards' quality.


Former PM's crime concerns

A veteran politician in Guyana is sceptical about the government's plans to buy helicopters for the security forces.

Former Prime Minister Hamilton Green's concern comes amid allegations of human rights abuses by the country's lawmen, against residents of the troubled Buxton village.

At least 23 people have been killed so far for this year in two separate attacks by heavily armed gangs.

Several villagers of Buxton claimed that the security forces have accused them of harbouring gunmen.

They also accused the security forces of beating and locking them up without trial.

Against that background, Mr Green who is currently Georgetown's Mayor predicts that the purchase of helicopters and other equipment for the security forces will further alienate the villagers.

Grenada opposition says party not divided

Grenada's opposition National Democratic Congress has dismissed claims that it is facing a leadership crisis.

Economic Affairs Minister Anthony Boatswain has charged that the NDC's leadership problem is serious.

There are claims that NDC leader Tillman Thomas' position is being overshadowed by general secretary Peter David and public relations officer Nazim Burke.

However Mr Thomas told BBC Caribbean that the party has never been more organised.

“The whole thing is propaganda, they cannot deal with the support for the NDC," said Mr Thomas.

Belize sugar goes Fairtrade

A spokesman for sugar farmers in Belize says he is pleased with a decision by Tate and Lyle, one of the biggest sugar producers in the world, to switch Belizean exports to the Fairtrade label.

The Fairtrade Foundation provides a consumer label to guarantee that disadvantaged farmers in the developing world get a better deal.

Carlos Magana from the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association told the BBC that some of the higher prices will go toward social projects for farming communities.

Tate & Lyle said it will be buying between 50,000 and 100,000 tonnes of sugar from Belize in the first year and paying a premium of US$60 a tonne.

Three for Belize contest

Three candidates have been nominated to replace the former Prime Minister Said Musa has leader of the opposition Peoples United Party.

Mr Musa resigned after his party's resounding defeat in general elections earlier this month.

The three are deputy leader John Briceno, chairman Francis Fonseca and MP Mark Espat.

The new PUP leader will be chosen at the end of March.

Targeted end of Monserrat's grant-aid

2012 -- that's the year the Montserrat government says it hopes to wean itself off British budgetary support.

The British territory has depended on financial backing from London to sustain itself since the volcanic eruption in 1997.

Chief Minister Lowell Lewis said the island's government will be be able to balance its books by 2012.

Canadian aid for Haiti

Canada's foreign minister, Maxime Bernier, has praised Haiti's improving security after years of turmoil.

The minister has just completed a visit to Port au Prince where he confirmed that Canada will provide US$550 million in aid for the coming years.

The money will be spent, among other things, on a big highway project, a police academy and security installations on the southern coast and the border with the Dominican Republic.

Raul Castro is new Cuban president
22 February, 2008 | News
Guyana's crime challenge
22 February, 2008 | News
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