PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr. 8, CMC – Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says he should have some definitive word concerning the replacement vessel for the Galicia – a ferry that is used to transport cargo between Trinidad and Tobago.
This follows a recent announcement from Inter-Continental Shipping Ltd, the owners of the ferry, that the vessel would end operations on the domestic sea brief on April 18.
According to the Trinidad Newsday, the Galicia will continue its sailings to and from Tobago over the Easter weekend, but Sinanan stressed that the short term period of two months between the time the Galicia ceases operations and closure of a tender to acquire a replacement vessel, is the period which must be immediately addressed .
He said no company is being “blacklisted” from participating in the tender and he hopes Inter-Continental would participate.
Pointing to concerns raised by the Tobago Chamber of Commerce about options to replace the Galicia, the Transport Minister said this was not a simple matter ,
He is quoted as saying that acquiring a vessel to operate on the sea bridge is different from acquiring a new motor vehicle from a automobile dealership because the requirements are far different.
Reiterating this was a situation, which should never have happened in the first place, Sinanan explained that “a combination” of vessels may have to be used in the short term, until a proper replacement is acquired .
Super Fast Galicia has been operating in the twin island republic since May 2014.
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 15, CMC – The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) says it has embarked upon a series of public and town hall meetings to galvanise support for its planned mass demonstrations against the multi-billion-dollar “Pearl of the Caribbean” project in the southern town of Vieux-Fort.
“The St. Lucia Labour Party reiterates its opposition to the DSH project in its current form and is even more outraged at the proposed Phase 2 of the project which will include the Maria Islands. The party believes that if allowed to proceed, the projects will bring untold hardships on the people of the south in particular, as well as our fragile eco-system,” the SLP said in a statement.
It said as a result it is embarking upon on a series of town hall and public meetings “island wide to bring the issue to the people,” and it “intends to thereafter take to the streets in mass demonstrations”.
Last week, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet urged St. Lucians to be “bold and courageous” in the face of new opportunities which can only help the island develop.
Last July, the authorities here announced that the US$2.6 billion project will occupy a 700-acre site and will include a marina, a racecourse, a resort and shopping mall complex, casino, Free Trade Zone, extensive entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as architecturally designed villas and apartments.
“Overall, the Pearl of the Caribbean Development is designed to be a well-balanced project with open space making up over 50 per cent of the overall development. It is designed to be a sustainable and self-contained development and is expected to generate between 500 to 800 jobs in construction during its initial phase of implementation,” according to the statement by Invest St. Lucia
The Hong Kong-based Desert Star Holdings (DSH).project has attracted both supporters and detractors with former prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony warning in January that there will never be peace in Vieux Fort and St. Lucia if the deal is not renegotiated and the project redesigned.
“If this agreement is not renegotiated, if this agreement is not redesigned, if all the offensive provisions in that agreement are not removed then I say to you tonight, there will never ever be peace in this community and in this country,” Anthony said.
But Prime Minister Chastanet told the conference which included the project developer Teo Ah Khing and his delegation, that he would be appointing a taskforce specifically for this project with various departments “to ensure that we do the necessary work but at the same time that we are ready to implement this project as soon as all the work has been completed.
“St. Lucia it is time for us take control of our own destiny. Let us stop living in mediocrity. Let us develop our assets for all the citizens in the south and for St. Lucia. The time for change is now.”
The DHS official pledged “to continue to preserve, enhance; do detailed research on all the existing wild life and marine life on this island.
“Secondly, we are going to allow local tourists to be able to experience the very rare natural features right out there in the ocean and allow it to be a tourism attraction added onto the already interesting attractions in the island St. Lucia.
“Thirdly, with the creation of this 150 to 200 acres of new land certain portions will be returned to the people of St. Lucia. This is not just about the public parks or ocean parks that the visitors are going to enjoy; this is to allow us to put ourselves on the world map for the international research of wild life,” he added.
But in its statement, the SLP said that the government has shown “it is insensitive to the cries of the people of the country and appears determined to ram down the throats of our citizens without any meaningful consultation, major projects that can significantly transform the lives of the people.
“From leasing prime lands at EC$1.00 (One Ec dollar =US$0.37 cents) per acre to the destructions of our eco system at Maria Islands, the Prime Minister continues to show scant regard for the welfare of St. Lucians.”
The party said that even while Chastanet was assuring St.Lucians that only a Framework Agreement existed and that negotiations were ongoing, the developer was already clearing lands though no DCA approval had been given and no Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken.
It said that even the cries of the St. Lucia National Trust (SLNT) have fallen on deaf ears.
The SLNT has called on the government to re-think its plans for the multi-billion dollar project saying it has “been trying feverishly to obtain official project documents from the relevant authorities but to no avail.
“This proposed plan threatens Maria Islands, a Nature Reserve, which is the home of the world’s rarest snake, the St. Lucia Racer as well as the St. Lucia whiptail and many other unique flora and fauna,” the SLNT said, adding that “the disturbing news is that in addition to destroying the ecological, environmental, historical, archaeological and social assets enshrined in Pointe Sable, the DSH plan includes a proposal to connect Maria Major and Maria Minor and building a causeway to the main land,” it added.
The SLP said it wanted to assure nationals that “it will not stand idly by whilst the government literally gives away our land.
“This is not a partisan issue but instead one which will negatively impact the vast majority of St. Lucians. We call on all right-thinking St. Lucians to stand up for their country and to stand up for their children’s future.
“For our part, the St. Lucia Labour Party will do all within its lawful means to ensure these projects do not proceed in the manner the Prime Minister has described,” the party added.
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar. 16, CMC – A treaty to solidify negotiations with the Republic of France to define the maritime space between Antigua and Barbuda and neighbouring French territories, was signed by government officials on Wednesday.
The treaty establishes the outer limits of Antigua & Barbuda’s jurisdiction from where the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) ends, its use, and exploration and exploitation of the Atlantic Ocean in respect to Guadeloupe and Saint Barthelemy.
It also embraces the interests of local fishermen and seafarers who now have a clearer understanding of the delineation of boundaries, thereby enabling both governments to rectify the common issue.
“It is also the first step to manage the problems we may have between our fishermen; obviously, it is never easy to know if you are in French waters or Antiguan waters,” said Ambassador to the OECS Member States and Barbados, Phillipe Ardanaz, who signed the treaty.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his administration recognises the need for adopting a ‘Blue Economy’ approach to development and is currently looking at ways to develop the nation’s oceanic resources.
“That is a significant amount of resources for us to harness, in fact it is almost 200 times our land space. My understanding is that within the next 40 years, it will be very difficult to find sufficient land space in order to produce sufficient food to sustain the global population,” Browne said.
The prime minister added that possessing a large EEZ provides the opportunity to satisfy seafood demand and suggested the twin island is capable of harvesting in the region of 10,000 tonnes of fish and fish products each year.
“As it stands now, fresh fish and fish products are relatively outside the means of the ordinary Antiguan and Barbudan, but as we continue to invest more resources in the ‘Blue Economy’ in fisheries, we will see an increase in supply and therefore that should help to drive down the cost.”
The Prime Minister said this treaty delineates an essential area in the Atlantic waters that will ensure there are no disputes over maritime space with the country’s neighbours.
The signing of the agreement follows the Eastern Caribbean Ocean Policy (ECROP) declaration for OECS members to formalise maritime boundaries in securing rights protection and jurisdiction over marine areas.
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Feb 28, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda Tuesday launched the construction of a luxury five-star hotel that it said would improve room capacity here to more than 5,000 over the next years and also catering to the local market that ensures a high return on tourism investments.
Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy Minister Asot Michael said that the hotel, a venture between Al Caribi Antigua – a joint venture between Sheik Tariq Al Qassemi of Dubai and the Antigua and Barbuda government – will have between 95-100 rooms and 40 villas along the sheltered cove over 32 acres
“This new tourism project takes us another step closer to realizing our vision of becoming the economic powerhouse of the region,” Michael said, adding that the “purpose for our focus and vision is that the growth and future of tourism represents the future of our nation.
“Travel and tourism directly impacts the economic and social development of our country: it opens us up for business, trade and capital investment, and very importantly, for our people, it creates jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for the workforce and celebrates our heritage and cultural values. “
He said Callaloo Cay is a project focused on benefitting the community,environment and investors and what he is particularly excited about is that simultaneous to the development of the property will be the development of a National park across five acres that will be for local residents and guests.
“This is not just a project for visitors – we are excited about our residents benefitting from our investment in construction. This National Park is not only a preservation project but a future resource for everyone. Improving our nation and the lives of our residents is always this administration’s top priority. “
Michael said that the Gaston Browne administration is confident that opening this new modern and luxurious property, offering the best in services, and introducing it to our portfolio will lead to increased airlift, from all our main visitor source markets.
He said Callaloo Cay is the culmination of an unrivalled collaboration between the Antigua and Barbuda government and world-renowned developers with a wealth of international experience and an impressive portfolio of luxury projects.
Michael, who did not disclose the cost of the project, said that 2017 is anticipated to be another bumper year for tourism and for expanding the island’s sustainable development.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb 21, CMC – Regional tourism officials Tuesday applauded Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders for taking the lead in recognising the critical contribution of the sector to regional economies and a commitment to advancing a regional tourism agenda.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) the region’s tourism development agency, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the umbrella private sector organization, said they firmly believe “that tourism is a key driver of socio-economic progress, helping destinations and countries to quickly create jobs and businesses, generate tax revenues and support infrastructure improvements to the benefit of residents and visitor.
“It is a proven tool to lower unemployment, stimulate indigenous entrepreneurial activity, increase foreign exchange earnings, and grow tax revenues for our treasuries.
“However, it is a fiercely competitive business, and we are facing the stark reality that we must find ways of maximizing the collective strength of the Caribbean, if any and all of us are to truly succeed,” the two organisations noted.
CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley last week made a presentation to the regional leaders last week that was also prepared in collaboration with the CHTA,.
The communique issued following the summit noted that that the leaders welcomed proposals from the two organisations for advancing a regional tourism agenda, particularly through public/private Sector Partnerships.
“Heads of Government acknowledged the importance of transportation and facilitation of travel, human resource development, the creative industries and marketing as well as competitiveness and financing for the sustainability of Tourism.
“Heads of Government agreed that public-private sector partnerships, guiding the development and marketing of tourism for the Caribbean, needed to be more effective and requested that the marketing of tourism encompass, in particular, the eco-tourism product of mainland Member States – Belize, Guyana and Suriname.”
Regarding travel, the regional leaders called for an urgent meeting of the Council for Trade and Development (COTED)-Transportation to address air transport issues in particular, including those related to the tourism sector.
The leaders said they also supported the establishment of an Interim Tourism Working Group comprising representation from the CARICOM Secretariat, CTO and the CHTA with the mandate to coordinate with regional public and private sector stakeholder groups, the development of specific solutions to be presented to the next summit in Grenada.
The CTO and CHTA said the support of the leaders “is a progressive and positive move and a welcomed commitment towards furthering the development of our people, so that they can take full advantage of the employment, career and entrepreneurial opportunities available through the region’s largest industry.
“We wish to thank the leaders for placing tourism on their agenda. We are particularly appreciative to Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas, who has responsibility for tourism in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell for advancing the proposed initiative at the meeting,” the regional tourism bodies said.
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Feb 20, CMC – The St. Lucia government has welcomed the opening of the 455- room Royalton Saint Lucia Resort and Spa in the north of the island, saying it provides opportunities for employment and improving the economy.
“It’s a big opportunity for the business community, the economic spin-offs are going to be tremendous,” said Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee who was on hand for the hotel’s “soft opening” over the weekend after a two-year closure for rehabilitation work.
“The inventory here is about 455 and I think that is going to add tremendous value for us and give us tremendous momentum as a destination,” Fedee said, adding that an estimated 900 people are employed with the possibility of the figure increasing in coming months.
“The Royalton brand is going to bring tremendous force to the destination – it’s a product that we didn’t have before and it’s a product that is going to lend itself to our marketing initiative,” he said, adding that the facility will provide an opportunity to attract more airlift to the island.
“There are so many positives coming out of this investment at a time when the economy badly needs it and at a time when the unemployment rate is of much concern,” Fedee said, noting that the Allen Chastanet government has a number of other projects in the pipeline which will provide an economic stimulus in a bid to turn around the ailing economy.
Meanwhile, the hotel has responded to statements being made here that it is involved in poaching staff members from other facilities.
“You can’t stop people from moving from company to company. So poaching would be us calling and trying to bring people over. People applied of their own free will, as I did as well,” said general manager Andre Dhanpaul, noting that several months ago the resort advertised for staff and received 6,000 applications.
Dhanpaul a former Saint Lucia based Regional Director for Sandals Resorts International said the applicants were short listed and some 2,500 were interviewed.
“You can’t stop people from moving from company to company – so poaching would be us calling and trying to bring people over. People applied of their own free will, as I did as well,” the Royalton official stated.
Dhanpaul said that 98 per cent of hotel staff are Saint Lucians and that the resort’s ultimate objective is to treat its people well and surpass the expectations of its guests.
“We want to do community outreach by having our managers go to high schools and colleges one hour per month each of us will go out to inspire St. Lucians to join our business,” Dhanpaul said.
Stirring opening to CARICOM Inter-Sessional – Video highlights
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Twenty-Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) opened Thursday morning at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana.
Speakers at the Opening included CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, and CARICOM Chairman and President of Guyana, HE David Granger.More in this video report: https://vimeo.com/204469890
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 14, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Argyle International Airport was officially opened Monday evening with a flag raising ceremony in which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the facility is “a symbol, it is a metaphor of what is possible in us.
“Do not ever allow any people, any nation to impose on us limitations to our imagination,” he told the large crowd that turned out to the opening of the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) facility, six years behind schedule.
“Only we, as a self-governing people under God, with our own individual sense of being; only we must impose limitations on ourselves. Any other notion is a colonial one, and it is debilitating and it will hold us back,” said Gonsalves, who in 2005 announced his administration’s plan to build an international airport at Argyle, on the eastern side of the island.
“Whatever we set our minds to achieve, with patience and calm, we can achieve, as we have seen it here. This is a bridge to the world. And this plan didn’t just come from us. It is a combination of human intelligence and divine inspiration,” Gonsalves said and sang the chorus “I’m building a Bridge”.
Monday’s flag raising was one of two events to mark the opening of the airport, which begins operations later on Tuesday with scheduled flights by intra-regional carriers, LIAT and Grenadine Air Alliance.
A number of international chartered flights from North America and Cuba are also scheduled to land on Tuesday at the airport, which has contributed EC$400 million to the EC$1.6 billion national debt.
The airport has a runway that is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually and 800 persons an hour at peak.
Gonsalves, who will also address Tuesday’s ceremony, said “today was supposed to be a very simple function and look at the thousands who are here.
“ (Tuesday) I believe we are going to see the largest crowd ever assembled at one place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And we are going to have a good time. We are going to have a good time because we have been blessed,” he said.
In his address, Gonsalves reiterated that the events on Monday and Tuesday are national ones.
“This is a not a party, political event; neither the one tomorrow (Tuesday). There is enough time, which we have spent on those arguments and we may well spend them on the arguments in the future, but today, now, and tomorrow (Tuesday), with our guests in our midst, I want to ensure that we have a national event, worthy of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
“It is inevitable, in the nature of competitive politics, that this or that matter may be said; that something may creep in. But, as prime minister of the country, I want to reaffirm, yet again, that this is a national event,” Gonsalves said, using the event to thank the nations and institutions that contributed to the successful completion of the airport.
He thanked the CARICOM Development Fund, which, of its own resources and through resources from Turkey, contributed to the airport and thanked also the president and the government and the people of Taiwan, which donated the terminal building.
He also recognised “very specially”, three other major partners, namely Venezuela, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, which will be featured during Tuesday’s celebratory rally.
President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro is slated to attend and speak at the event as well as Cuban Vice-President, Salvador Mesa.
Gonsalves paid a special tribute to the memory of his “dear friend and brother”, the late prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, whose widow, Hazel will speak during Tuesday’s rally.
Gonsalves also used the ceremony to recognise other representatives of countries that have assisted with the airport, namely, Austria, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Georgia, and Iran.
“We have had contributions from countries; some of them do not have diplomatic relations with one another. And part of the creativity and skill of the government was to bring all of these countries together to assist the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Gonsalves also thanked the governments of Britain, Canada, and the United States of America, whose respective export credit guarantee systems assisted “with certain items of equipment which we purchased, but, because of the guarantee systems we got them on better interest terms”.
Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday, speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said the event had the pomp and ceremony that he expected.
“And I hope that the airport turns out to be what we expect as well.”
Friday did not give a clear answer as to whether opposition lawmakers would attend Tuesday’s event, saying “we will see. We will take it one day at a time.”
He said that decision would be informed by “what the nature of the exercise is.
“I think right now what we want to do is to show that commitment to people that this is a national project and whatever the criticisms are, we, in the opposition, we have to raise questions about things that we see in major projects or in government policy that raise concern.
“And if we do that, that doesn’t mean that we are rejecting entirely or we are unpatriotic, as some people might say. We are doing our job. When the project is completed, we hope that, based on the input we have given, that it becomes a better project.”
Friday said opposition lawmakers were at the event to show that they want the project to succeed.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb. 9, CMC – Caribbean tourism broke new ground in 2016, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time ever, and once again growing faster than the global average.
“Despite political, security and economic uncertainties and challenges in our main source markets, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 4.2 per cent in 2016, better than the 3.9 per cent overall internationally,” secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley announced Thursday in presenting the Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2016.
“Encouragingly, we welcomed over one million more visitors last year than in 2015, to reach 29.3 million, continuing our proud record of continuous growth for the seventh straight year,” he told a news conference held at CTO headquarters, and streamed to a global audience.
Visitor expenditure also hit a new high, growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent to reach US$35.5 billion.
The United States remained the Caribbean’s primary market with an estimated 14.6 million stay-over arrivals, up 3.5 per cent on 2015.
However, it was Europe that recorded the highest rate of growth among the main source markets, led by strong increases from Germany (8.2 per cent) and the United Kingdom (4.1 per cent).
“Despite terrorist attacks in some countries, the Brexit referendum in the UK and bumpy economic outcomes across continental Europe, arrivals from that market climbed by 11.4 per cent, to reach 5.6 million. The strong European performance was evident by the healthy increases of between six and 16.8 per cent in each month, compared to the corresponding month in 2015,” Mr. Riley said.
Intra- Caribbean travel also so performed well, recording a 3.6 per cent increase – the second straight year of growth – despite costly and fragmented air service.
Canada, normally a robust market for the Caribbean, recorded a decrease for the first time since 1994, and only the second contraction since 1982. The 3.3 million arrivals from that market represented a 3.4 per cent drop when compared to 2015.
The South American market also contracted by 10.6 per cent, mainly due to political instability in two of the main sources.
The CTO secretary general also revealed that cruise arrivals grew at a slower pace of 1.3 per cent to approximately 26.3 million, while the hotel sector recorded negative growth, with all hotel indicators contracting, with the exception of the number of available rooms, which grew by just over one per cent, according to Smith Travel Research.
Regarding the outlook for 2017, the CTO predicts increases of 2.5 and 3.5 per cent in long-stay arrivals and increases of between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent in cruise passenger arrivals.
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 2, , CMC – A group of experts from the United Nations has expressed concern that the new executive order by United States President Donald Trump is in breach of the country’s human rights commitments.
“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants – François Crépeau; on racisim – Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter terrorism – Ben Emmerson; on torture – Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion – Ahmed Shaheed. in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
“The US recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” they warned.
The Executive Order, signed by Trump on January 27, bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the US for the next 90 days.
It also stops the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the US fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017.
Noting that “in the midst of the world’s greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” the rights experts stressed: “The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts.”
“The US is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts,” they added.
The Executive Order also applies to those who come from the countries listed – whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit.
It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries.
“This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the US will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported,” the human rights experts said.
Earlier this week Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarkes warned that Trump’s order may extend to the Caribbean.
“I am concerned that he could expand that if we don’t organize and push back now,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told an emergency meeting of the Muslim community in her Brooklyn, New York district Sunday night.