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US Secretary of State and Jamaica PM Insist There’s No Plot to Divide CARICOM

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right), shares a laugh with United States (US) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, after bilateral discussions. (Photo: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday January 24, 2020
– Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to a
unified Caribbean Community (CARICOM), amid concerns about efforts to divide
the grouping.

And
the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose invitation to meet with
representatives of only some countries in the 15-member grouping sparked the
concerns, has insisted that the US is not attempting to drive any wedge between
regional nations.

Concerns
were first raised publicly by Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is also
CARICOM’s chairman, ahead of Pompeo’s visit to Jamaica this week, during which
he was scheduled to meet with foreign ministers from The Bahamas, Belize, the
Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia.

“I
don’t look to pick fights, but I am conscious that if this country does not
stand for something, then it will fall for anything. As chairman of CARICOM, it
is impossible for me to agree that my Foreign Minister should attend a meeting
with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. If some are invited
and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” Mottley had said.

But
following bilateral discussions with Pompeo during his two-day working visit
this week, Holness sought to make it clear that his country “does not want to
see, and does not engage in any policy that would divide CARICOM, which is an
important fraternity of countries”.

“We
want to keep it that way. Jamaica’s interest is to unite the region for prosperity,
freedom and peace,” he asserted.

Holness
emphasized that the focus has to be that every member of CARICOM and every
Jamaican ensure that there is engagement within the region.

“So,
the conversation should be how do we get greater engagement, how are we talking
more. My interest is to get Jamaica talking with everyone and to strengthen our
relationship, particularly with our largest trading partner, particularly with
our largest security partner, because we have over one million US visitors
coming to our shores yearly. We have significant economic, social and cultural
interests, so we should never seek to create an artificial divide,” the Prime
Minister said.

For
his part, Secretary Pompeo concurred that “there is no intent from the United
States to divide CARICOM”.

“We
want all the countries of this region to prosper and be successful. We know
that countries in this region will agree with the US on certain positions from
time to time and disagree with us from time to time. That’s true for Jamaica,
as well as true for many of the folks that I’ll visit with this afternoon. We
want to invite them all to be part of the economic prosperity security zone
that is this region, and we welcome the leadership that Jamaica has demonstrated
in the CARICOM region,” he said.

Secretary
Pompeo said the US welcomes dialogue with every country in the region, noting
that “we’d want to meet with them all, we’d welcome them all to participate in
all of the conversations that we are having about important issues”.

“Things
that matter to the United States of America we think matter to each and every
country in CARICOM and we want to work with them closely to develop a security
prosperity dialogue with them, so that we can all be successful, not divided,
but together,” he added.

During his visit, the US Secretary of State engaged in round-table discussions with Caribbean officials. He delivered a policy speech on the Caribbean’s critical importance to the US, and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, interests and economic prosperity.

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Rihanna Calls for Unity and for Friends of People of Colour to “Pull Up”, After Winning NAACP Award

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Rihanna after accepting her President’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday.

CALIFORNIA, United States, Monday February 24, 2020 – Barbadian superstar Rihanna made a call for unity in a powerful
speech on Saturday, after accepting the prestigious President’s Award at the 51st
NAACP Image Awards for her philanthropic efforts.

In a three-minute speech that earned
her thunderous applause at Pasadena the Civic Centre Auditorium in California, the
singer/ business mogul/actress/philanthropist – who, in
2012, founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, a non-profit organization named
after her grandparents that funds ground-breaking education and emergency
preparedness and response programmes worldwide – insisted that people needed to
be united to fix the world’s problems.

Rihanna spoke of the importance of
unifying communities and encouraged people of colour to tell friends of
different races to “pull up”.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned,
it’s that we can only fix this world together. We can’t do it divided. I cannot
emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The ‘if it’s your
problem, then it’s not mine’; ‘it’s a woman’s problem’; ‘it’s a black people
problem’; ‘it’s a poor people problem’,” she said.

Posing a question and asking for a show of hands
from the audience, the 32-year-old global music and fashion icon continued: “How
many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other
races, sexes, religions? They want to break bread with you, right? They like
you? Well then, this is their problem too.”

“So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jrs and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up,” she added, referring to an unarmed 18-year-old man who was fatally shot by a white policeman and a 28-year-old woman who was shot to death in her mother’s Dallas home by a police officer.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, the
US’ oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization, said in a
statement that Rihanna had received the award for not only her “ground-breaking
career as an artist and musician”, but also for being a “stellar
public servant”.

“From her business achievements through Fenty,
to her tremendous record as an activist and philanthropist, Rihanna epitomizes
the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight
in our President’s Award,” said Johnson who presented Rihanna with the award at
a live show aired on BET.

Alongside her musical achievements which include nine Grammy awards, Rihanna has added more credits to her burgeoning resume: executive producer, fashion designer, actress, business entrepreneur and philanthropist.

In becoming a recipient of the President’s Award, she has joined the join the ranks of other distinguished recipients, including American rapper, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and record executive Jay-Z; American politician and retired four-star general in the US Army Colin Powell who was the first African American to be appointed Secretary of State; and the late Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, activist, and philanthropist.

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Haiti’s Carnival Called Off as Cops and Soldiers Square off in Gun Battle

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Monday February 24, 2020 – Haiti’s annual Carnival, scheduled to be staged from yesterday until Wednesday, has been called off following violent clashes between the country’s soldiers and police.

On what was to be day one of the celebration at the Champ de Mars, members of President Jovenel Moise’s reconstituted Armed Forces of Haiti and off-duty members of the Haiti National Police and their supporters exchanged gunfire a short distance from the presidential palace.

Hours after the afternoon battle, government announced that the festival would be cancelled “in order to avoid the planned bloodshed”.

Reports indicated that at least one
person was fatally shot in the head and more than a dozen other people were
wounded.

The deadly clash came during a protest that was organized by police officers demanding better pay and working conditions and demanding that authorities accept their effort to unionize.

During the unrest, a stand that was built for the festivities was destroyed by the protesters.

While the government says it cannot increase the officers’ salaries, President Moise announced several other measures, including: doubling a monthly police debit card from $51 to $102 for 15,000 members of the police force; and the construction of a new police housing village with two-bedroom apartments that would be sold with a 25 to 30-year mortgage at 7.5 percent interest.

Haiti’s Carnival was also cancelled last year due to unrest.

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CARICOM Development Fund To Be Restructured

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CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley says the issue of the CDF and its management was one that had “bedevilled the Community for some time”.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 24, 2020 – So serious are the issues facing the region that its leaders have
decided to restructure the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) to enable it to raise
additional monies from individuals, companies, institutions, regional countries
and extra regional countries.

CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime
Minister Mia Mottley, said the issue of the CDF and its management was one that
had “bedevilled the Community for some time”, noting that it was created as a
way to assist disadvantaged countries, sectors, and regions.

“Member states have committed to capitalizing this Fund, but this will never be enough to do what needs to be done, particularly with all of the challenges that the region faces at this point in time…. I outlined a number of them and we keep seeing new challenges as we did with the COVID-19, and to that extent, therefore, we feel strongly that we need to revisit the structure of the CARICOM Development Fund,” she said on the heels of the 31st Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government which her country hosted.

Mottley added that the restructuring
would be long-term, explaining that the CDF would ultimately drive the development
of regional institutions that had been taken over by technological developments
which made them obsolete or incapable of being competitive.

As a result, she said a transition
period was needed since a middle developed country that was affected by a
climatic or other event would require an injection of capital in order to
stabilize it.

The CARICOM chairman noted that going
forward, once the restructuring was done correctly, the Fund would be one of
the key pillars of the integration movement, allowing leaders to deal with the
disparities that exist as far as size and capacity were concerned, and carrying
all nations from the very large to the very smallest ones on the integration
journey.

She opined that in any Single Market
and Single Economy there would be winners and losers, pointing out that this
decision by heads of government would “make a significant difference” to the
region’s development.

At the end of the two-day summit, a number of agreements were also signed. Dominica signed the Protocol on the Public Procurement and an agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets; the British Virgin Islands signed an agreement for the establishment of the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for the Education in Medicine and other Health Professions; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Protocol on Public Procurement and Declaration of Intent to Provisionally Apply the Protocol on Public Procurement.

CARICOM Heads of Government will meet in St Vincent and the Grenadines for their Regular summit from July 2 to 3, but they have promised to confer before that date by teleconference.

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PAHO Calls for Action to Improve Childhood Cancer Survival in the Caribbean

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday February 24, 2020 – Paediatric cancer experts and health authorities convened by the Pan
American Health Organization (PAHO), together with the Hospital for Sick
Children (SickKids) and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, are calling for
stepped-up action to improve the survival rate for children suffering from
cancer in the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean and globally, cancer
is among the leading causes of death in children under age 15.

In high-income countries, more than 8
in 10 children with cancer are able to survive the illness, thanks to early
diagnosis and effective treatment. But in several Caribbean countries, two-year
overall survival is only about 55 per cent. Higher toxicity of cancer
treatments and patients’ abandoning their treatment are the main barriers to
successful outcomes, and experts say that strengthening health systems is the
best way to address these challenges.

“Childhood cancer treatment is very
cost-effective, and many more children’s lives can be saved by ensuring that
the health system is well equipped to diagnose and treat children with cancer
and provide support to their families,’’ said Silvana Luciani, head of PAHO’s non-communicable
diseases unit.

The experts convened by PAHO include paediatricians,
paediatric oncologists, and non-communicable disease programme managers from
nine Caribbean countries and territories, along with representatives of
ministries of health and other collaborating organizations. The group met in
Port of Spain Trinidad recently to map out ways to increase support and
action—at both the country and international levels—to reduce deaths in
children and adolescents with cancer in the Caribbean through strengthened
health systems, focusing on improving diagnosis, treatment, training, and
family support.

The meeting identified priority areas
of action as: earlier detection and diagnosis of childhood cancer in primary
care, with timely referral for specialized treatment; increased access to
essential medicines for childhood cancer; training and continuing
multi-disciplinary medical education for specialists and primary care
providers; improved continuity of care, including for children who live far
from treatment centres to prevent abandonment of treatment; and the production
and sharing of evidence for public health use and to mobilize political and
financial support.

The actions proposed by the experts
in Trinidad build on earlier efforts by the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative
(SCI), established in 2013 to build sustainable local capacity to diagnose,
treat and manage paediatric cancers and blood disorders in six participating
countries – The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago –, and a regional working group for Latin
America and the Caribbean set up by PAHO in 2017 to develop strategies and
recommendations for health system strengthening for childhood cancer.

The current efforts are also part of the broader Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 to improve survival rates by addressing barriers to access and quality of care for children with cancer.

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Barbados Government Exploring Possibility of Ferry System for Local and Regional Transportation

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 24, 2020 – Government is presently exploring possibilities for investment to
establish a ferry system to move people and cargo from coast to coast and
throughout the island chain.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the
Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey recently shared his vision to move cargo from
Oistins in Christ Church all the way to the north of the island, as he also spoke
about his desire to see service expand even further.

“We have now an expression of
interest out to encourage those who have the wherewithal to help us build out
those jetties from the north all the way to the south and move cargo along the
coastline, and also think bigger, and move between the islands,” he said.

He added that Government had
determined that there was need for a “nicely built and stabilized” ferry that
could move great containers and people.

Humphrey noted that lessons learnt
from the aftermath of past disasters indicated that getting food into the
island chain was almost impossible.

“The Caribbean should not be in a
position where it is waiting on someone to come and save us.  That is why it is necessary to have the
ferries,” he said, making reference to the difficulties experienced in getting
planes into Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Minister Humphrey also pointed out that investing in ferries would also benefit the country, as the costs could be “recouped” in shipping, and assist with reducing export costs.

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