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Terror threat level reduced to ‘severe’ after Manchester arrests

As raids continue, Theresa May says armed soldiers will be gradually withdrawn from the streets after the bank holiday weekend

By Connor Sephton, News Reporter

Adapted: The UK’s terror threat level has been reduced from ‘critical’ to ‘severe’, the Prime Minister has confirmed.

At an emergency COBRA meeting, the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre advised that the UK should return to the second highest level, which indicates an attack is highly likely rather than imminent.

Operation Temperer, which has seen armed soldiers support police on the streets, will be gradually stood down after the bank holiday weekend.

The terror threat level had been upgraded to critical following the Manchester bombing, which killed 22 people on Monday night.

Theresa May said the decision followed a “significant amount of police activity over the last 24 hours”. A total of 11 people suspected of having links to the terror attack are now in police custody.

However, the Prime Minister warned that the “country should remain vigilant” during the hundreds of events taking place over the coming days – including the FA Cup final at Wembley and the Premiership Rugby final at Twickenham.

Greater Manchester Police said the adjusted terror threat level will not affect its investigation, with the force stressing “the level of resources we have available to us remains the same”.

Armed police to guard bank holiday events

A bomb disposal van was sent to an operation in Moss Side on Saturday morning

Image: A bomb disposal van was sent to an operation in Moss Side on Saturday morning

The announcement came as an evacuation took place in Moss Side as part of a search linked to the Manchester terror attack.

Greater Manchester Police described the evacuation in the inner-city area as a “precautionary measure to ensure everyone’s safety”.

Boscombe Street was cleared by counter-terror officers on Saturday morning, and a bomb disposal van was sent to the scene.

Police lifted the cordon shortly before 12.30pm and residents were allowed back into the area.

Mark Rowley, the head of national counter-terrorism policing, said 17 searches had either concluded or were continuing – mostly in the North West.

Speaking outside Scotland Yard, he stressed there was still much to do and warned more searches and arrests were likely to take place in the coming days.

Overnight, officers performed a controlled explosion at a property in Cheetham Hill. Two men, 20 and 22, were arrested.

A bus was also stormed to detain a 44-year-old man in Rusholme.

Ariana Grande set for Manchester return

  Daughters, wives, friends – victims of the Manchester attack

Police say they have tracked down a large part of the network linked to suicide bomber Salman Abedi – with “thousands of exhibits” now being examined by investigators.

“I think it is fair to say that there has been enormous progress with the investigation, but there is still an awful lot of work to do,” Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said police cuts must be halted following the attack – and claimed the public would be willing to pay more to boost officer numbers.

“The feeling in Greater Manchester now is that police visibility has noticeably dipped. We have seen a 20% cut in police funding since 2010 and lost 2,000 officers,” Mr Burnham told The Times. “We need half of that back, probably more.”

Posted in Crime, International, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

Haitian TPS recipient, Farah Larrieux disappointed in extension

May 23, 2017
Statement from a Haitian TPS recipient, Farah Larrieux 

MIAMI – In any fight, it’s either you lose or you win. The Department of Homeland Security press release about the TPS 6-month extension is for me a Haitian a big disappointment.

To those, particularly some Haitian officials and Haitian media personalities, who think this is good news, I would suggest you to get informed about the TPS statute.

According to the statute and as it is mentioned on the DHS press release, once they give an extension of 6 months, it means the end of the program. What is going to happen to these people who build their life here, even before the earthquake? Those who have children who were born and raised in the U.S.? Those who are supporting their family members in Haiti?

Some who have lost their sense of humanity might think this is not their concern; Some might be too selfish to understand the importance of the issue and how it will affect the social and economic status in Haiti; Some might be so evil to even laugh about other’s struggles. To these people, I say….shame on you.

The decision of Secretary John Kelly saddens me. But what it is most indignant to me is the fact this decision was taken on the recommendation of the Haitian government which painted a different picture of the sad and alarming reality the people live daily in Haiti.

If for the Haitian government, progress has been made since the 2010 earthquake, what about employees of public administration, particularly public schools teachers who have not received their earnings for months? What about the economy which is in an unceasing free fall? The national currency “Gourdes” has no more value… 1US Dollar=62.5 gourdes. A country where citizens are paid in gourdes, and they buy even groceries in US dollars?

What about hundreds of thousands who lost everything after Hurricane Matthew devastated the southwestern of Haiti in October 2016; Still now the government has not came up with a development plan for this region.

What about hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants who have been deported from Dominican Republic and abandoned at Haiti-DR border with no shelter, food, social assistance, heath care, job and worst, no future for the kids?

What about thousands of Haitian migrants who risked their life, walked miles throughout South America to reach the border of US-Mexico where their life is in limbo.

Watch PBS report and read AZCentral stories on the suffer of my people.


My heart is torn apart to see the suffering of my people. Is there a conspiracy to destroy the Haitian people?

This is beyond the fight for extension of TPS for 50,000 Haitians. It is about the dignity, the human rights and the life of a nation. We, Haitians, have the rights for equality, justice, a decent life, better education; The rights to opportunities to pursue our dreams, to development our skills, to succeed and to create a competitive market, to integrate the global economy and to earn the respect of other nations. We are human being.

To my fellow TPS recipients, I say, the fight is not over. Be strong, be smart. We will continue to strategize, to work with our partners and allies and to fight for immigrant rights. We are immigrants but we are no less human. God is with us!

Posted in International, Local, News, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

The Trumps

Trump ‘determined to pursue peace’ after Pope meeting

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has said he is “more determined than ever” to pursue peace in the world after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican.

He was granted a short private audience with the head of the Catholic Church on the latest leg of his overseas trip.

The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and a Mexico-US wall.

Mr Trump is now in Brussels for talks with Nato and EU officials.

He will also hold meetings with Belgium’s King Philippe and Prime Minister Charles Michel.

After the meeting between President Trump and the Pope, the Vatican said there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Mr Trump, who BBC Europe editor Katya Adler says seemed star-struck, said of the Pope: “He is something, he’s really good. We had a fantastic meeting and we had a fantastic tour, it was really beautiful. We’re liking Italy very much… it was an honour to be with the Pope.”

Later Mr Trump tweeted: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

He arrived in Europe from Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he vowed to try to achieve peace in the region.

The US leader began his foreign trip with a two-day stop in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, urging Muslim countries to take the lead in combating radicalisation.

Much-anticipated meeting

Mr Trump and his entourage arrived at the Vatican just before 08:30, in a meeting that was arranged at the last minute.

The US president was greeted by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the head of the papal household, and escorted by the Swiss Guard to the offices of Pope Francis.

Correspondents say Mr Trump seemed subdued during their initial meeting, while Pope Francis was not as jovial as he sometimes is with world leaders.

The two men appeared much more relaxed at the end of their 30-minute private meeting.

The Vatican said later that they shared a commitment to “life, and freedom of worship and conscience” and expressed hope that they can collaborate “in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to migrants”.

On international affairs, their “exchange of views” covered the “promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue”, and highlighted the need to protect Christian communities in the Middle East.

After the meeting, they exchanged gifts. Mr Trump gave the Pope a boxed set of writings by the civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

The Pope gave Mr Trump a signed copy of a message he delivered for World Peace Day, along with some of his writings about the need to protect the environment.

He also presented him with a small sculptured olive tree, telling Mr Trump through an interpreter: “It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace”.

Mr Trump responded by saying: “We can use some peace.” He also said he would read the texts the Pope gave him.

Mr Trump also met Italy’s president and prime minister while in Rome.

Seeking common ground – analysis by the BBC’s Jon Sopel, Rome

Image copyright EPA

Ever so slowly and flanked by the Swiss Guard the leader of the world’s pre-eminent superpower walked through the Vatican to meet the leader of one of the world’s pre-eminent religions.

And were there ever two more different people? Pope Francis with just the merest hint of a smile; President Trump beaming. They sat across from each other in the pontiff’s study as though one was going for a job interview.

During the election campaign, when Pope Francis visited the US-Mexico border he said that people who choose to build walls and not bridges weren’t Christian. Donald Trump said those comments were disgraceful.

And in February, just after Donald Trump had tried to introduce his travel ban from six mainly Muslim countries and suspended the refugee programme, the Pope tweeted: “How often in the Bible the Lord asks us to welcome migrants and foreigners, reminding us that we too are foreigners!”

The normal mantra when two world leaders meet is to say “there is more that unites us than divides us”. Almost certainly true. But there are real differences as well.

And the entourage?

Mr Trump was joined not only by his wife, daughter and son-in-law but also Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser HR McMaster.

Both Melania and Ivanka Trump were dressed in black with their heads partially covered, in keeping with a traditional Vatican protocol that is no longer expected to be rigorously observed.

Melania, a Catholic, asked the Pope to bless her rosary beads.

In a light-hearted exchange, Pope Francis asked her what she gave her husband to eat. It was initially thought he had suggested “pizza” to her, but in fact he said potica, which is a cake from Mrs Trump’s home country of Slovenia. She laughed in response, and agreed with him.

Image copyright EPA

What next for Mr Trump’s trip?

This is Mr Trump’s first visit to Europe since taking office in January.

Security has been stepped up across Rome, with the areas around the Vatican City, the Italian presidential palace and the American ambassador’s residence, where Mr Trump is staying, temporarily closed to traffic.

Despite the heavy police presence, about 100 anti-Trump protesters held a rally in one of Rome’s squares on Tuesday evening.

Significant protests are also expected in Brussels where he will meet EU and Nato officials.

This visit will be about damage limitation with the fervent hope of establishing some kind of transatlantic chemistry, the BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler says.

She adds that the tone in Brussels has gone from off-the-record sneering when the erratic and unpredictable Mr Trump first won the November elections, to outright concern now that the implications of his presidency have begun to sink in.

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Six including opposition legislators charged in multi-million dollar fraud

 GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 19, CMC. -Six persons including two opposition legislators and a former deputy Permanent Secretary were charged on Friday in connection with a multi-million dollar fraud at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), dating back to 2011.

The six, all former GRDB board members were slapped with a fines totalling GUY$400 million, they were also ordered to surrender their passports.

CourtThe court was told that the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) legislators Dharamkumar Seeraj and Nigel Dharamlall along with GRDB head Ricky Ramraj, former General Manager Jagnarine Singh, former GRDB board member Badrie Persaud and Former Ministry of Agriculture Deputy Permanent Secretary, Prema Roopnarine,conspired to omit entering different sums of money into a ledger .

Dharamlall was only charged in relation to the 2011 and 2012 omission while the others were slapped with all five charges.

The  six were charged following investigations that were prompted by the findings of a forensic audit.

All  of the Attorneys asked that their clients be released either on their own recognizance or reasonable bail as the prosecution requested more time for the filing of statements.

Defense Anil Nandlall argued that the charges do not relate to any missing money but rather to an omission to make an entry into a ledger.

He said that is largely a clerical function and the Board Members should not be held responsible for it adding that the error is miniscule and that the Auditor General, a Chartered Accountant and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament did not raise any red flags.

Nandlall also questioned why from a Board of 15 members, only six were identified to be charged.

The matter has been adjourned until June 22 .

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Another Community Resource Centre opens in the north of Montserrat

As promised, the Caribbean Development Bank’s Basic Needs Trust Fund, the St. John’s Action Club (SJAC), along with the Ministry of Education, Health and Community Services gathered on Saturday evening, May 6, 2017, at Pump Ghaut, St. John’s, for the official handover and opening of the St. John’s Community Resource Centre.

Beginning with an opening prayer led by Fr. Carlisle Vyphuis who beseeched God’s blessing, “on those responsible for funding this resource center the Basic Needs Trust Fund; on all those who will use this building and on everything that will be said and done here this afternoon,” may be done to God’s honor and to His glory.

SJAC president who performed as master of ceremonies next gave opening remarks  of welcome in which he featured “a bittersweet taste for me.” He began by being, “indeed thankful for this beautiful building and we know it’s a blessing for the St John’s community. The benefits that would be derived from this is tremendous and just to name a few our masquerades and even our guppies would have a venue for practice, social events and meetings for the community, the continuation of our homework program, the start of our music lessons, guitar and ukulele lessons which will start immediately,” he announced.

As to the bittersweet taste, Kenneth Silcott said it comes from the depth at which the building was placed. “To me it presents a dangerous cliff-side which you’ll see at the back there, for our children,” he said, adding that the destruction of the land resulted in minimizing the space for a playground and a basketball field, “that would have been up top.” (the site had been split and the lower level used for the building)  “Promise us the stars… As I look at it there are two projects in my mind, there’s a beautiful wall that needs to be done to protect our children and the roads need to be completed…,” Silcott demanded.

BNTF Manager on the ground, Mervyn Browne gave the usual overview of the eventual Resource Centre, recalling that the masquerades and guppies emerged from funding by BNTF for a project, ‘the revival of traditional music and dance.’

The Resource Centres he said, were part of the BNTF’s human resource development project under this sixth cycle of the BNTF program. Former MP Victor James several years initiated the request for the Centre. GoM provided the funding for the purchase of the land on which the building sits with land above, for future development.

The Hon. Minister of Community Services Delmaude Ryan then gave remarks during which she alluded to Mr Silcott’s “bitter-sweet taste”, speaking directly. “I have a vision for this place,” she said, noting, “the very same things that may appear to be a challenge are those that will stimulate our intellect and creativity to foster the gelling of the community spirit required, to allow the light of this community Centre, though appearing to be hidden, in terms of its physical location, to be the beacon of this community.” 

She praised, “The village of St. John’s and its surrounding held a greater share of the rich heritage of Montserrat. It was identified first by the reservoir of talents in the arts and its strong intellectual capacity. “When you hear St. John’s, the first thing that came to mind was calypso, music, masquerade, and goat water.”

“Its loneliness will not be for too long,” she asserts, “as it awakes to laughter, music and dance, cooking and studies which will be etched in its walls, a new story of development of a people will birth, the true essence of ‘it takes a village to raise a whole child’ and a new St. John’s will emerge from beneath the hill.”  

The Minister concludes, impressing on the people of St. John’s hoping that, “lives that will be changed here,” and that, “it will take a Community effort, whether your navel string was buried here in St John’s or not…the success of the positive changes and life transforming experiences given root through this community Centre, depends on…your commitment to participate in the programmes, giving of your time and resources whether young or old, on island or overseas.” 

A vote of thanks ensued, delivered by Ms Jose White, followed Fr. Vyphuis’ prayers of dedication of the building, declaring the building open and the ribbon cutting by the SJAC princess, Minister and BNTF Manager brought the proceedings to an end followed by a tour of the building with refreshments served.

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Pirate attack

Boat captain feared dead following pirate attack


GEORGETOWN, Guyana , May 17, CMC – A boat captain is feared dead following an alleged attack by two masked pirates along the Corentyne River on Tuesday.

Pirate attackThe police report that Mahadeo Ramdyal, 44, also known as Chico was in the boat with two crew members when they were attacked by pirates.

The police believe that Ramdyal drowned as one of the attackers hit him on the head as he jumped overboard.

“The crew members managed to win to a vessel anchored some 100 meters from the shore,” the police said.

The pirates who are still at large reportedly stole the catch from the vessel as well as the engine that was attached to the boat.

The Corentyne River runs along the Guyana/Suriname border .


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Privy council dismisses case of murder convict

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 17, CMC – The UK based Privy Council has dismissed an appeal from a man who was convicted of the 2007 murder of his estranged wife.

Earlier this year Warrington Phillip approached the privy council after he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Shermell Williams Phillip.

COURTPhillip was convicted of the brutal stabbing death of his estranged wife in a Nevis court in 2008 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Phillip had previously made two  appeals to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Appeal Court, both of which were dismissed.

His application to the Privy Council was his last resort to appeal his conviction.

Both Director of Public Prosecutions for St. Kitts and Nevis Valston Graham and Prosecutor Dane Hamilton QC , represented the Crown in the UK.

The case was heard in London in January but the judgment was handed down Wednesday with the conclusion being –  “For all the foregoing reasons, the Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed.”

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Justice Adrian Saunders

Judge surprised by CCJ’s ‘light’ caseload


KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 17, CMC — A judge with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has expressed “surprise” at the court’s “light” caseload in its original jurisdiction, 12 years after it was established.

“After 12 years, it is a little surprising that the court’s original jurisdiction caseload is still as light as it is,” Justice Adrian Saunders said in Kingstown on Tuesday.

“In the appellate jurisdiction, the court has delivered over 140 or so judgements but we have heard less than a dozen cases and delivered about 20 judgements in the original jurisdiction,” he said.

Justice Adrian Saunders
Justice Adrian Saunders

Saunders’ comments came as he delivered a lecture entitled “The Treaty of Chaguaramas: Conflicts and Contradictions for the Island State”.

The lecture is part of the “Issues in International Affairs Lecture Series” organised by the University of the West Indies Open Campus in Kingstown, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and Legalease SVG Inc.

Saunders said  the flow of cases that relate to the treaty – which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – is “very sluggish”.

“The question is why. I can only hazard a few guesses,” Saunders said, adding that he thinks many companies and persons who are prejudiced by the unlawful conduct of CARICOM members states still feel constrained to rely on the delinquent member state for a host of things.

These range from the expeditious and favourable processing of licences, to direct business opportunity.

“They prefer, therefore, to suffer in silence rather than displeasing a government and possibly losing business by brining legal proceedings.”

The judge said that there was actually a litigant who gave evidence to this effect to the court.

“He said there are other actions that he could bring but if he did so, he believes that spiteful measure would be taken against him.”

Saunders said that another issue is that in its original jurisdiction, the CCJ applies the rules of international law.

“And the vast majority of lawyers in private practise are not experienced in this branch of the law. Many of them have never even read the treaty and they are, therefore, unable or reluctant to advise their clients to institute cases in the original jurisdiction.”

Another consideration is that the vast majority of CARICOM nationals are still ignorant about their rights that proceed from the treaty and about the role of the court in vindicating those rights, Saunders said.

On the issue of sensitization , he noted  that when the court was established in 2005, it seems that CARICOM could not afford to concentrate anymore of its slender resources in widespread public education about these matters..

“In the court’s early years, it attempted itself to do some of this work and judges of the court went to various member states and conducted public education sessions about the treaty and the rights of CARICOM citizens and the role of the court, Saunders said.

“But, interestingly, when we embarked upon our first strategic plan, our stakeholders told us in no uncertain terms that they didn’t consider it seemly that the judges of the court should be doing this kind of public relations work. And so we have cut back considerable on it.”

The judge said that the case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie — who won a lawsuit against the Barbados government — the public spiritedness of a few Jamaican lawyers who were willing to work pro bono for her, “have demonstrated that with courage, with an abiding faith in the legal system, it is possible to take on a member stage and to secure justice”.

The CCJ awarded Myrie US$38,000 after she sued the Barbados government, claiming she was subjected to a dehumanising cavity search by a female immigration officer at Grantley Adams International Airport, locked in a filthy room overnight and deported to Jamaica in March 2011.

Regarding what he finds most significant about the original jurisdiction and the court’s role as the guardian of the treaty, Saunders said: “I would say, without hesitation, that despite the fact that only four countries have acceded to the appellate jurisdiction, despite the challenges we experience, in securing law and order in the region, despite everything you see and hear about the justice system in the region, what impresses me most is that the governments in the region have demonstrated the utmost respect for the court and its judgement.”

He said that after the Myrie decision, CARICOM governments re-examined their protocols relating to admission of entry of CARICOM nationals and made alterations to those protocols to confirm with the prescriptions of the court.

The same thing happened when the court decided a case against CARICOM itself, Saunders said.

“Every single judgement of the court has ben fully complied with,” Saunders said, noting among them, that Myrie was paid her damages in full by the Barbados government.

In 2001, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries established the CCJ to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.

But so far only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ, even though most of the 15-member grouping are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the integration movement.

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Guyana Flooding

Government to assist hundreds affected by flood waters

 GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 18, CMC – Over 1,000 people have been affected by flood waters reported to be at least 15 feet high.

This was disclosed by Minister of State Joseph Harmon who has responsibility of the Civil Defense Commission (CDC) and the coordination of disaster response.

Harmon told reporters at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday that a team from the CDC was dispatched to the flood affected communities on the outskirts of the capital.

Guyana Flooding He said the team dispatched will have, “a firsthand look and do a proper assessment as to what the true situation is,” adding that “they have already started taking steps to get relief to those persons who are there.”

According to Harmon, residents are receiving support from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) which has a presence in the community, assessing the situation to provide relief. However, the Minister explained that, “it is important to note that some of these communities are in valleys, and therefore, when the rains come down heavily, the waters come down from the mountain and they flood these villages.”

He added that “some of these flood waters you have just to wait until they recede, there is very little that you can do except to provide for the comfort of the residents who are affected by it and that is what we are doing.”

Meanwhile, President David Granger has given certain directions to the CDC, and to the regional administration for actions to be taken, and the support which the government is going to give to the residents who are affected by the flooding.

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Regional integration provides resilience – CARICOM Secretary General


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 18, CMC –  Secretary General of the  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque says the strength of the regional integration movement provides a solid platform for which CARICOM member states can build resilience within a global environment that is constantly in flux.

LaRocque, made the statement here on Thursday when he addressed the opening of the 20th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

COFCOR_MayAccording to LaRocque, COFCOR is meeting at a time when international order was in greater flux than usual.

“Globalization and multilateralism, characterised by open borders, the institutionalization of economic and political cooperation, and shared sovereignty are unravelling, increasingly challenged by the rise of populism, protectionism and isolationism,” the CARICOM Secretary-General told the gathering of the Region’s Foreign Ministers

He noted that some international developments have had far-reaching implications for the Community’s well-being – highlighting the commencement of the Brexit process and a new US administration whose policy positions towards the Region were not yet clear.

He said the uncertainty that potential policy reversals in the US brought to a number of critical global issues was also crucial to CARICOM.

Concerning Brexit, he said, involved parties are among the region’s major trading and development partners, making it important for the Community to maintain the strong relationships with both.

He said imminent negotiations on the post-Cotonou arrangements which would define the future relationship between the ACP (African Caribbean and Pacific) Group of Countries and the EU; the discussion on the revitalisation of the ACP itself, a construct which had been useful in bringing three regions together in common cause; and the ever-present existential threat of climate change were among the other issues he highlighted that had far-reaching implications for CARICOM.

The Secretary-General said CARICOM was adapting to change and building the resilience, even as it sought new opportunities for advancement and a strengthened Community.

“The Caribbean Community has a complex and formidable task at hand.  With change, comes uncertainty but also the potential for opportunities.  I believe, as I have said in another forum, that “the strength of our integration movement gives us a solid platform upon which to build our resilience,” LaRocque said.

He noted that CARICOM had been pursuing engagements with Third Countries to address the issues including graduation from access to concessional development financing, with some success; engaging relevant authorities in foreign capitals to address the withdrawal of correspondent banking services; and confronting in an aggressive manner, those nations that persist in labelling some CARICOM Member States as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.

“The unilateral black listing of our Member States by countries who we think of as our traditional friends, is unwarranted, unhelpful and indeed harmful to our economies,” Mr LaRocque stated.

However, he noted that the Community had begun to see the value of acting in concert. That has become evident as the Community prepares for the upcoming high-level UN Conference on Oceans, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, to be held in New York 5-9 June, 2017.

“The Community has brought together the negotiating skills of its Permanent Representatives to the UN, the guidance of their capitals, and the inputs of technical experts from UWI and CARICOM specialized institutions to maximize the effectiveness of our participation,” the CARICOM Secretary-General said,

The meeting is being chaired by  Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados who is also the incoming Chairman of COFCOR.

“It is imperative that we deepen and strengthen community engagement and, as a cohesive body, leverage our voices as one to derive maximum benefit for the region,” she said while adding that recent political developments in the hemisphere and Europe involving long-term CARICOM partners would likely have “a profound impact” on the region.

The Foreign Minister said the region must devise a clear policy on how they will engage with the EU following the exit of the United Kingdom, as well as the Africa Caribbean Pacific-European Union relationship after the Cotonou Agreement expires in 2020.

She also highlighted the issue of climate change, which she stressed was a “priority issue” for CARICOM.

“We also have to determine what effect the new stand of the United States administration on climate change may have on the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and other efforts to mitigate climate change,” she stated.

Outgoing COFCOR Chairman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Commerce and Regional Integration of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sir Louis Straker, also reiterated the need for CARICOM to “pay closer attention and forge closer relations” during a time of changing global dynamics.

“In order to be effective within this new and emerging landscape, CARICOM as a unified body must ensure its ability to leverage its position on various thematic issues that are achievable and supported by strong political will.

Following the opening ceremony, the CARICOM Foreign Ministers engaged in the first plenary session and a retreat.

The meeting will conclude on Friday.

The COFCOR meets formally once each year, and is responsible for determining relations between the Community, international organisations and Third States

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