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bulletT&T opposition leader Panday found guilty
bulletJamaica turning to ethanol
bulletBrazil achieves energy independence
bulletPopular Jamaican "don" Zekes found guilty
bulletBoth Barbados and T&T claim victory in sea dispute
bulletJamaica budget presented
bulletGuyana Agriculture Minister brutally killed
bulletT&T put US$ 250 million more in BWIA
bulletBlack males in US fall further behind
bulletCuban help for Palisadoes Road in Jamaica
bulletIn Jamaica: No Coke, Pepsi!
bulletPut condoms in Ja schools to fight teenage pregnancy
bulletMore cops for Jamaican schools
bulletJamaica considers selling its shares in JPS and Petrojam
bulletCalls for tolerance of sex workers in Jamaica.
bulletVenezuela offers cut-rate oil to Haiti
bulletLegalize it!
bulletDominica takes Switzerland to Intl Court of Justice
bulletBrian Lara WI captain again



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May 2006

T&T opposition leader Panday found guilty

Trinidad and Tobago's former Prime Minister, and sitting Opposition leader, Basdeo Panday has been found guilty by a Trinidad court for failing to declare monies held in a London bank account. The former Prime Minister has been found guilty of failing to declare income and assets for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, contrary to the country's Integrity in Public Life Act of 1987. It is the first time in the country's history that a Prime Minister has been found guilty of such charges.

The court heard that the former Prime Minister failed to declare to the island's Integrity Commission millions of dollars held in an account in London in his and his wife's name, Oma Panday. He was found guilty of all three offences committed on three separate occasions while he was Prime Minister.

Panday was given three years hard labour but will only serve two years as his sentence is to run concurrently. He has also been fined TT$20,000 on each of the three offences. Added to this Panday is to pay the state TT$1.5 million dollars.

Meanwhile, following the court ruling Panday's lawyers said they will immediately mount an appeal against the judgment. He has since been freed on bail because of health conditions. Both Panday's doctor and the prison doctor testified that conditions in the prison would be too harsh for Panday, who has a heart condition, high blood pressure and diabetes.

UNC confusion
Meanwhile has been thrown into confusion and dissension. Just before Parliament started, sidelined political leader Winston Dookeran told a news conference that he was moving to the back bench, leaving opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her eight supporters on the front bench. During the sitting, UNC Chief Whip Ganga Singh, one of five parliamentarians who support Mr. Dookeran, lashed out at the opposition leader in such a manner that newly elected Persad-Bissessar led a walkout of those who support her.

Now twice denied the position of opposition leader in parliament, (Basdeo Panday had earlier refused to give it up when Mr. Dookeran became party leader) Winston Dookeran has signalled that he will stand his ground.

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Jamaica turning to ethanol

As the oil price crisis rages, Jamaica is turning to ethanol. A new pilot project by the Government oil company, Petrojam, could see 10 per cent of local gasolene being replaced by ethanol, potentially saving Jamaica up to US$35 million (J$2.3 billion) per year in foreign exchange.

During the six-month trial, 70 government vehicles will use Petrojam-produced ethanol instead of imported MTBE as the fuel enhancer, needed to make it burn more smoothly, and if successful Government wants to replace all MTBE in gasolene used locally. Ethanol is also more environmentally-friendly.

The sugar cane which is needed to produce the ethanol will come, during the trial period, from Brazil. Petrojam is currently refining ethanol, solely for export to the United States, as part of the joint expansion of the refinery together with Brazilian firm Coinex. Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Products Sales Ltd., said that local factories could switch to ethanol production 'next week' if asked to. The same distillery that makes the rum can make ethanol.

It has been recommended that Jamaica should follow the Brazilian model of producing multiple products from sugar cane which, in the Jamaican case, could be raw sugar, molasses, refined sugar, rum, ethanol and bagasse for electricity for co-generation.

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Brazil achieves energy independence

 Brazil has declared itself energy independent with the opening of its largest oil well. It is located offshore. Brazil has become expert at offshore deep drilling. The government broke the private companies’ oil monopoly in 1995 to allow the government-owned Petrobras to compete. Petrobras snapped up exploration zones that Brazil put up for auction to international bidders. Brazil produced only 2,700 barrels of oil a day when Petrobras was founded in 1953, and consumed 137,000 barrels a day. The new well is expected to boost national oil production to an average of 1.9 million barrels a day this year, more than average consumption of 1.85 million barrels a day. It's quite a change from the 1970s, when Brazil imported 85 percent of the oil it consumed, deepening a foreign debt that raised inflation to four digits and pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Brazil is also a large producer of ethanol. The popularity of flexi-fuel cars continues to rise as these cars can run on both ethanol and gasoline.

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Popular Jamaican "don" Zekes found guilty

Well known Jamaican "don", 48-year-old Donald 'Zekes' Phipps, has been convicted of two counts of murder and could face the death penalty. Zekes commands a huge following in his home area of Matthews Lane as a PNP don.

Phipps' supporters, who on several occasions gathered outside the courthouse, were not around yesterday. Members of the security forces, who maintained a strong presence in and around the courthouse, made sure that no spectators were in close proximity to the building. Soldiers with rifles at the ready stood guard on the roof of the car park behind the courthouse.

The murdered men had been burnt to death on April 15, 2005. That night witnesses testified that Zekes declared on a cell phone that was the last time they were going to hear the voice of one of the victims. The Crown had no real evidence against Zeke but relied on voice identification and scientific evidence to prove its case. An appeal is expected.

Zekes showed no signs of emotion when the verdicts were handed down in the Home Circuit Court. The 12-member jury, comprising five women and seven men, deliberated for two hours.

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Both Barbados and T&T claim victory in sea  dispute

Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago have been told they have to work out an agreement to allow and govern the access of Barbadian fishermen to Trinidad waters. The five-member Arbitral Tribunal of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which handed down that ruling has also established a single maritime boundary almost in the center of the waters separating the two countries. The tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to make any binding decision regarding the right of Barbadian fisherfolk to fish in Trinidad's waters.

The decisions were given in a 116-page ruling handed down by the arbitrators who convened under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on The Law of the Sea, after a dispute between Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago over the right of Barbados' fishermen to fish in waters off Tobago.

However, both countries claim victory in the tribunal's ruling. Barbados asserts:

bulletthe decision not only allows Barbadian fishermen access to what Trinidad and Tobago claimed as its exclusive economic zone but gives Barbados the right to explore maritime resources.
bulletIt got what it wanted and the tribunal had only made a slight variation to what Barbados said should be the maritime boundary line between the two nations.
bulletThe determination of the maritime boundary will boost Barbados' oil hopes.

But Trinidad claims that the tribunal has ruled in it's favour and and that the tribunal had "rejected each and every claim" made by Barbados "on all counts". Among the claims rejected was Barbados' attempt to secure all the area south of the median line which it regarded as its traditional fishing ground - the area just off Tobago.

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Jamaica budget presented

Minister of Finance and Planning, Omar Davies, has tabled a $358 billion budget in the House of Representatives, a three per cent increase over the one presented last year. The budget outlines the Government's spending plans for the new financial year which started April 1. It comes against the background of the failure to achieve a balance of income and spending of last year's budget and the decision to push back that target into the future.

This year's proposed budget offers substantial overall increases in funding to the relatively small Agriculture and Tourism ministries and smaller rises to the Industry and Commerce as well as to the Justice ministries. There were cuts to the ministries of Local Government and Finance and Planning. Recurrent spending of $221 billion is up 11.7 per cent, while capital spending, at $146 billion, is down 6.8 per cent.

Interest payments on public debt amounts to $92 billion, a nine per cent increase over the level last year. The non-interest side of the recurrent budget is thus showing an increase of nearly 14 per cent over last year.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has pledged to focus on basic education and the Education Ministry has a $42 billion budget, an increase of 9.6 per cent.

    Spending budget proposal (J$millions)




Finance and Planning


- 963

- 0.3%

Tourism, Ent. Culture


+ 1,169




+ 2,649


Education and Youth


+ 3,630




+ 1,587


Housing, Trans and Works 9,676    

Loc. Gov/Environment.


- 922

- 13.2

Agriculture and Land


+ 1,416


Industry, Commerce


+ 551




+ 575


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Guyana Agriculture Minister brutally killed

Brutal crimes continue in Guyana. Gunmen invaded the home of Guyana's agriculture minister and fatally shot him along with two relatives, a security guard and the family dog. Three others were also injured in the attack.

Police said that shortly after midnight Saturday an unknown number of heavily-armed gunmen attacked the home of Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh, 50, at LBI, located 6 miles east of the country's capital of Georgetown. Also killed in the attack were the minister's brother Rajpat Sawh, 62, his sister Pulmatie Persaud, and security guard, Curtis Robinson, 38.

Reports say that:

bulletThe armed men gained entry into the minister's premises by jumping over a southern fence, fatally shooting Robinson in the body in the process and injuring another security guard, Augu Khan, who was shot in his abdomen.
bulletThe men then shot and killed the minister's dog, gained entry into the house through an open doorway, where they confronted the minister who was shot to his left leg, head and buttocks.
bulletThe gunmen then confronted Rajpat Sawh and Omprakash Sawh where they demanded cash and jewellry. Omprakash handed over GY$23, 000.
bulletThe gunmen then made the victims lie on the floor and discharged rounds at them, fatally wounding Rajpat and injuring Omprakash, who was hit in his left side. Pulmatie Persaud, who was in another room, was also fatally shot to her left side of her face.
bulletThe minister's wife, Sattie Sawh, survived the attack by hiding in a section of the house.

Police combed nearby canefields but no arrests have been made. Security forces say that the men used AK-47 guns in the attack, which they say are commonly used by criminal gangs and in drug-related executions in Guyana.

Sawh, who at one time served as Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela, was also the recipient of the Order of Francisco Miranda, First Class, award from the Republic of Venezuela and also received several community awards in Canada. Countrywide, flags flew at half-mast and President Jagdeo said Guyana will observe a national day of mourning.

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T&T put US$ 250 million more in BWIA

Here we go again. The government of Trinidad and Tobago will invest US$250 million to assist its cash-strapped national airline, BWIA.

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Black males in US fall further behind

Findings in a recent study on black males in the US reported by MSNBC included:


Rates of imprisonment for young black men escalated throughout the 1990s and continued climbing well into the current decade. About 16 percent of black men in their twenties who were not college students were either in jail or in prison.


African Americans are seven times more likely to go to prison or jail than whites.


Almost 60 percent of black male high school dropouts in their early thirties have spent time in prison.


The percentage of young jobless black men continues to increase, part of a trend that generally hasn't abated in decades. In 2000, about 65 percent of black male high-school dropouts had no jobs, either because they couldn't find work or because they were in jail. By 2004, the studies found that number had grown to 72 percent. The numbers for young black men were higher than for whites and Hispanics similarly affected.

Making matters worse, a forthcoming book, which includes a study of nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City, found that black job applicants with no criminal records weren't any more likely to get a job than white applicants who were just out of prison.

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Cuban Help for Palisadoes Road in Jamaica

Palisadoes Road is the only road to the historic town of Port Royal and the vital Norman Manley Airport in Kingston Jamaica. The low-lying road in the narrow strip of land in the sea is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes, which have taken a toll on its coastal defences.

Jamaica is hoping to secure the future of the hurricane-battered Palisadoes Road under a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cuba. Cuba is offering free technical assistance to examine and develop strategies for coastal protection. If approved by Cabinet, the study - to be financed by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) - could begin within a month and take a further two months to complete, according to Filbert Brown, senior director of Emergency Management and Land Services in the Ministry of Local Government and Environment.

The project will improve the coastal defences, replenish beaches and improve the Palisadoes strip as a recreational attraction.

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In Jamaica: No Coke, Pepsi!

No MacDonalds, now no Coca Cola! The popular carbonated drink, is currently off the Jamaican supermarket shelves say wholesalers of the product, Facey Commodity Limited. After five years, Facey  is no longer distributing the product. According to an agent at Facey Commodity, the organisation relinquished its distribution commitments on April 14. No reason was provided for the discontinuation. Jamaica might find out that it can survive without Coke.

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Put condoms in Ja schools to fight teenage pregnancy

Students of several leading Jamaican high schools are calling on the Government to immediately "make condoms available in schools" in order to realistically deal with teenage pregnancy. This very  controversial view was expressed by students, boys and girls, representing a cross section of Jamaican high schools at a recent Gleaner Editor’s forum.

The National Family Planning Board has reported that while the number of teens becoming parents at an early age has declined, the figure remains high. The latest statistics immediately available indicate that 5,249 girls aged 15-19 years had their first child in 2003, down from 6,245 in 2002 and 7,395 in 2001. Figures from the Registrar General's Department also revealed that 1,328 girls in that age group became parents for the second time last year compared to 1,517 in 2002 and 1,730 in 2001.

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More cops for Jamaican schools

Violence in schools has become such a problem in Jamaica that there is a demand for cops in schools. PLANS ARE in place to introduce 36 additional police personnel, called school resource officers (SROs), to the Safe Schools Program by June 2007. The Safe Schools Program was introduced in November 2004 and is a Government initiative to tackle the problem of violence in schools.

Currently, there are 114 trained SROs serving 92 schools islandwide. According to Superintendent Norman Heywood, coordinator of the police component of the Safe Schools Program, the increase is to ensure that there are no shortages in the system in cases of administrative leave or illnesses, and to provide for those schools which want to join the program.

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Venezuela offers cut-rate oil to Haiti

Venezuela invited Haiti to join a program offering cut-rate oil to Caribbean nations when the Haitian president-elect Rene Preval met recently with President Hugo Chavez in Caracas. Chavez announced that Haiti would be added to his Petrocaribe program, in which Caribbean and Central American nations can pay for oil with goods and get cut-rate financing if oil prices rise above 40 dollars a barrel. Fourteen nations have signed on to the program. The Venezuelan leader said Caracas would also provide Haiti aid in education and health.

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Jamaica considers selling its shares in JPS and Petrojam

Jamaica is considering selling its remaining 20 per cent ownership of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to employees and the public. Minister of Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell, told The Gleaner that Government was also considering selling shares in the Petrojam oil and ethanol refineries on the same basis.

The United States-based Mirant paid US$201 million for its 80 per cent share of the JPS in 2001. However, the National Investment Bank of Jamaica, at the time, valued JPS at US$251 million. The sale was seen as necessary at the time to balance the forthcoming budget.

Since then the company has invested billions of Jamaican dollars to improve its efficiency and generating capacity. Last September the company's entire share value was estimated at approximately US$350 million (J$22.6 billion). The 20 per cent holding would then have been valued around US$70 million (J$4.55 billion).

The Petrojam oil refinery is currently undergoing a US$250 million upgrade in cooperation with Venezuela, to be completed in 2009. A share offering for the oil refinery would likely come after this date, and for the ethanol before. Shares in the oil refinery would be offered to Venezuela as well as locally, although Government would retain some. Government currently owns 51 per cent of the ethanol refinery with the rest owned by the Brazil-based Coinex.

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Calls for tolerance of sex workers in Jamaica.

First it was Lascelles Chin, chairman of the Lasco Group of companies called for the acceptance of commercial sex workers (prostitutes) as one way to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. This call has now been joined by the Jamaica Aids Support for Life (JASL). Mr. Chin cited Thailand as an example of a nation where the profession is accepted, though not legalised, resulting in that country being able to achieve 100 per cent condom use among its sex workers.

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Legalize it!

"Legalize it" sang Peter Tosh. He was referring to ganga but so far despite increasing support for that idea in Jamaica, no step in that direction has been made. I suspect US opposition plays a big role. But not in Mexico, and not just for marijuana..

In Mexico possessing marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime if the drugs are carried in small amounts for personal use, under legislation passed by the Mexican Congress. The measure given final passage by senators recently allows police to focus on their battle against major drug dealers, the government says, and President Vicente Fox is expected to sign it into law.

"This law provides more judicial tools for authorities to fight crime," presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said yesterday. The measure was approved earlier by the lower house. Under the legislation, police will not penalise people for possessing up to five grams of marijuana, five grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine.

People caught with larger quantities of drugs will be treated as narcotics dealers and face increased jail terms under the plan. The legal changes will also decriminalise the possession of limited quantities of other drugs, including LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines and peyote - a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico's northern deserts.
Editor's Note: I bet US is most displeased. I hope they don't invade.

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Dominica takes Switzerland to Intl Court of Justice

Dominica has taken Switzerland to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal court of the United Nations. Dominica had named Roman Lakschin as a member of its Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organisation since March 1996. The UN accredited him but Switzerland refused to accept contending that Mr. Lakschin is a businessman and has no right to be a diplomat.

Dominica argues that the move is a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It further contends that Switzerland can not be allowed to 'control a small state, like Dominica, which has a population of merely some 70,000 people and, thus, is severely restrained in the selection of foreign envoys’. It is also asking the court to declare Switzerland to be in breach of its legal obligations, and to compel it to pay damages.

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Brian Lara WI captain again

Brian Lara was reappointed captain of the West Indies cricket team  to face Zimbabwe in their seven-match One-Day International (ODI). Lara, who was replaced as captain - by Shivnarine Chanderpaul - last year when he and several other players refused to sign contracts in a players' contracts dispute, is being given the captaincy for the third time in his career. Chanderpaul announced earlier this month that he was not interested in continuing as captain.

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