BNT staff members begin their journey to become regional conservation leaders

TRUE BLUE BAY, Grenada – Two Bahamas National Trust (BNT) staff members recently traveled to Grenada to take part in the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) programme to work on improving their skills in environmental leadership.

BNT Education Officer Scott Johnson and Science Officer Agnessa Lundy traveled to Grenada to take part in the programme and completed two weeks of training at St. George’s University on conservation in the Caribbean.

The CLiC programme is a multi-disciplinary programme that aims to strengthen the conservation capacity in the Caribbean.

Twenty participants from thirteen countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America came up with five projects focusing on five major conservation issues faced in the Caribbean: wildlife trafficking, invasive species, endemic and endangered species, critical habitats, and critical threats.

“It has been a challenging yet rewarding two weeks in Grenada,” Johnson said, “I learned more about conservation than I ever did and was able to understand the amount of work it takes to plan long term projects to save our wildlife.”

Funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW; www.ifaw.org), CLiC is a prestigious opportunity for up-and-coming conservation professionals in the wider Caribbean to gain invaluable skills and experience working with proven conservation leaders.

“This was perhaps the most fulfilling moment of my conservation career – diving wholly and solely into the culture and lives of my new Caribbean colleagues, friends and CLiC fellows,” said Lundy, one of BNT’s newest team members.

“Also, the five amazing projects we have decided to work on aims at enhancing biodiversity throughout the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America.”

This training event was the first of three sessions that will take place over the next two years, where Lundy and Johnson will join conservationists in designing, implementing and evaluating project in conservation for the Caribbean.

Once they graduate from the programme, they will be conservation leaders in the Caribbean and their enhanced skills will help them to train young environmental leaders in conservation.

Interested persons are asked to like the BNT on Facebook to watch
their journey, as they become conservation leaders.

Nimrod explains Terrorism Amendment Bill

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has taken legislation to Parliament to make some changes to the island’s Terrorism act.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod the Terrorism Amendment Bill was brought to the Lower House by Government in an effort to comply with international requests and standards to deal with terrorist groups like the feared Islamic States (ISIS) in the Middle East.

Nimrod told legislators that after 9/11 in which the World Trade Center was destroyed in New York, the world has changed significantly and as such Grenada is moving to strengthen its laws to be able to combat these issues.

“We all are concerned as to what’s happening now in terms of security and Mr Speaker we are all aware that today, the very dangerous acts and activities of certain groups internationally and otherwise put us on the defence. No one can deny what is happening today is something that shock the countries in terms of what these terrorists groups are doing,” he said.

The Terrorism Amendment bill seeks to amend the Terrorism Act No. 16 of 2012 to criminalise the recruiting, membership, and dissemination of terrorist publication and the making of statements likely to encourage terrorism.

There is an insertion of a new section in the Act, section 15A that deals with recruiting for a terrorist organisation.

Nimrod noted that although Grenada is a small island, recruiting persons by terrorist organisations is quite relevant to the island.

“You know at one time …the attitude was I don’t think we are any threat to these organisations internationally because little Grenada, in this region, nobody pays attention and I believe it’s a mistake to take that attitude”, he said.

“…The world has become so small and we might not be the intended victim but because of the smallness of the world and the gravity of the situation we might well be victims of those situations and this (is) why in the amendment, we are trying to deal with people who recruit terrorists,” he added.

The amendment makes provisions for persons, who attempt to recruit anyone or encourage anyone to join a terrorist organisation to be penalised.

Under the law, a person who commits an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for five years or both.

There is also a penalty under that section for persons who become a member of a terrorist group.

It said: “A person commits an offence if he or she joins or become a member of a terrorist organisation or participates in activities of a terrorist organisation is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for five years or both fine and imprisonment. Upon conviction and indictment to be fined $100,000 or imprisonment for up to 20 years,” he said.

Minister Nimrod pointed out that a person can be deemed to have committed an offence under the act if he or she creates a terrorist publication, distributes or circulates it.

“The essence of this amendment is to strengthen the principal act to deal with the present day situation. We cannot be paralysed and say nothing is happening now and so we don’t have to do anything… this is a very opportune time, we cannot wait until it’s too late,” the Minister said.

The senior government Minister did not give particulars on who would declare something printed to be “a terrorist publication”.

Protecting the coast through reef restoration

Measures are being put in place to safeguard the Grenada’s coastline against the growing impact of Climate Change through the implementation of coral reef restoration projects in the communities of Grand Anse on the mainland and Windward on the sister isle of Carriacou.

This was disclosed by Kerricia Hobson, an official in the Environment Division in the Ministry of Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment who is the Project Manager attached to the “Building Capacity for Coastal Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Coastal EBA project.

According to Hobson, the project aims to “strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of communities that depend on coastal ecosystem services provided by coral reefs and associated ecosystems,” and re-emphasizes “the importance of coral reefs for our fisheries and also for our tourism as an attraction.”

Hobson disclosed that the projects will be launched in the earmarked communities next week Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, making Grenada the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to do so.

She also emphasized the importance of both communities working along with government to build resilience and cited the many benefits that can be derived economically from the eco-system – particularly in the areas of tourism and fisheries.

Hobson, who made the revelation recently during a two-day Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), organised Symposium on Climate Change held at the St. Kitts Marriot Resort and Royal Beach Casino in Frigate Bay St. Kitts told reporters that a vulnerability assessment was done in 2014 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Grenada to determine how the island is coping and its ability to cope with the impact of climate change along the coast.

“We came up with some areas that are particularly vulnerable that did not already have intervention,” Hobson said, adding that the information “was presented to a wide group of stakeholders…and the stakeholders decided how to move forward…and they chose reef restoration.”

“We are actually creating coral reef nursery’s…harvesting live coral reefs from some of the healthy economies around the island and propagating them in the nursery and when they are sufficiently matured we would actually plant them out on to existing reef structures,” she said.

“So we are not introducing any new structures, just planting onto existing structures in those areas,” Hobson said, noting,  “we get protection for our coastline, which is something that is difficult to put a price on…green infrastructure…is more cost-effective in small islands where we don’t have a lot of monies to put into more traditional preventative structures” such as sea walls et cetera.

The Coastal EBA project, which is being implemented in Grenada and the island of Seychelles, which is located in the Indian Ocean has a duration of two and a half years and is being funded by the European Commission with a budget of US$ $3,366, 259.

Regional banks express fears over EU blacklist

CASTRIES, St. Lucia  – Regional banks are concerned that the European Commission’s listing of Caribbean countries among the world’s worst tax havens could hurt the region’s financial services sector.

The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB), a community of banks and other financial institutions in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), says the list has caused it “grave concern”.

The Commission, the European Union’s executive body, released a list of 30 non-cooperative, non-EU jurisdictions – including more than a dozen from the Caribbean – that had been identified by at least 10 EU member states.

The EU subsequently sought to clarify that the list was only a compilation of members’ lists and was not a new one. However, several Caribbean countries have challenged it, saying that they did not even do business with some of those EU countries that pointed fingers at them and labelled them non-cooperative.

“Notwithstanding that the European Union has now clarified that the final decision, regarding which countries should be on the list, has not been made; it must be highlighted that the timing of this publication and its general perception as a new ‘black list’ could have far-reaching effects on the Caribbean’s financial services sector,” the CAB said in a statement.

The association pointed out that indigenous banks in the region are already being challenged with the threat of loss of correspondent banking relationships with international banks.

An additional blacklist, “based on unclear criteria, may serve to exacerbate the perception of our region as a high risk area and consequently, negatively impact the Risk Rating profile of financial institutions by correspondent banks”, it said.

“The financial services industry cannot survive without correspondent
banking relationships and as a result, neither can our economies,” the association cautioned.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax
Purposes have challenged the list, saying that the only agreeable assessment of countries’ cooperation is made by the Global Forum and a number of countries identified in the EU exercise are either fully or largely compliant and have committed to Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), sometimes even as “early adopters”.

The CAB noted that the two international bodies had confirmed that: “Eight CARICOM countries and five associated members which are named in the EU’s report, are all included in the OECD’s list of members who have committed to Automatic Exchange of Information.”

Against that background, the CAB called on the EU to carefully review the criteria used by its member states to assess and determine the countries that are non-compliant in tax matters.

Additionally, it strongly recommended greater collaboration between the EU, the OECD and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes before blacklist reports are issued.

The CAB further urged regional governments to act together to ensure that the region is represented in key decision-making processes which can impact the growth and development of the region’s economies.

New Commonwealth body to fight corruption

National authorities from 12 Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean have joined forces to establish a new regional body to enhance transparency and help fight corruption.

From left to right, the persons pictured are: Justice Dame Monica Joseph, Chairperson of the Integrity Commission of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, Dame Cecile La Grenade, and  Roger Koranteng, Governance and Anti-Corruption Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat

From left to right, the persons pictured are: Justice Dame Monica Joseph, Chairperson of the Integrity Commission of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, Dame Cecile La Grenade, and Roger Koranteng, Governance and Anti-Corruption Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat

The Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Commonwealth Caribbean was formed at an international conference convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat in Grenada and hosted by the Integrity Commission of Grenada.

It was launched at the first Commonwealth Regional Conference for Heads of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Caribbean, taking place between June 22-26 and inaugurated by the Governor-General of Grenada, Dame Cecile La Grenade, and the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The association, made up of the heads of national commissions, will help Caribbean countries to cooperate across borders, exchange best practices and develop regional anti-corruption initiatives.

In welcoming its formation, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Deodat Maharaj, expressed the hope that the new body will help to further strengthen public confidence in cross-border initiatives to enhance accountability.

“The formation of this new association represents a major step forward in regional efforts to support integrity and address corruption. We have high hopes for the future of this network of national agencies, which will deliver practical benefits to members as a forum for knowledge sharing and coordination. The intention is also to help countries learn and exchange with other Commonwealth countries and regions”, he said.

Chairperson of the Integrity Commission of Grenada,  Justice Dame Monica Joseph, said: “The fact that we, in the Caribbean, will be forming ourselves into a regional association is recognition by us as a body that we consider it vital for the persons who serve us in public life, to function honestly, free of corruption and corrupt practices.

“We hope that, with that step, the peoples of the region would have confidence in the several commissions and anti-corruption bodies that form the association”, she added.

The establishment of the Caribbean body follows the similar formation, in 2011, of the Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa, spearheaded and supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The African association has helped improve the performance of national authorities through information exchanges, peer learning and by becoming a launch pad for bilateral agreements between countries.

The countries belonging to the new Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Commonwealth Caribbean are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and The Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Cooler for Princess Royal hospital

L-r Senator Norland Cox, Hospital Administrator Marisa  Alexis, Beacon Insurance Branch Manager Molly Roberts, Assistant Branch  Manager Nyel FrancisCorporate citizens across Grenada continue to make contributions towards the development of the health care sector on the island.

The latest contribution comes in the form of a standing cooler for
the Princess Royal Hospital on the sister isle of Carriacou from the Beacon Insurance Company Ltd.

Branch Manager of Beacon Insurance, Molly Roberts said that her company is always happy whenever it can give back to the communities in which they serve.

Roberts recalled that the insurance company was approached by former Hospital Administrator now Senator Norland Cox to make a tangible contribution to the health care facility.

Newly appointed Hospital Administrator, Norissa Alexis in expressing gratitude for the cooler said it will be used to generate funds which in turn will be used for hospital developmental projects.

The Princess Royal Hospital is the lone hospital on the sister isle and also serves Petite Martinique.

Courts gives to Bel Air Home

IMG_0144Courts has demonstrated once again that it is a good corporate citizen.

In May 2015, the company launched a promotion dubbed “Sweet Retreat”.

In conjunction with this promotion, plans were made to undertake an initiative where a percentage of each bedding sale would be donated to a charitable organisation.

The Bel Air Children’s Home was chosen.

A minimum of $3000 was guaranteed by Courts to be the least amount to be donated to the Home.

The official handover ceremony was held at the end of the promotion where  Coourts’ Commercial Officer, De Leon Walters presented a cheque for $4,680 to Alison Green, Deputy Manager of the Bel Air Children Home.

Courts Grenada and the Bel Air Children’s Home wish to express their heartfelt appreciation to all customers who supported this initiative.

Grenada to host CBU Assembly

Grenada is gearing up to host the 46th Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) at the four star Grenadian By Rex Resort, Point Salines, St. George from August 17-20.

Odette Campbell, Convener of the CBU Assembly

Odette Campbell, Convener of the CBU Assembly

The CBU is a not-for-profit association of public service and commercial broadcasters in the Caribbean.

Close to 100 representatives from the 46 CBU member entities throughout the region are expected to meet at the Rex Resort, to discuss the many challenges and issues facing Caribbean media.

According to CBU Secretary General, Sonia Gill, the assembly will cover a wide range of topics pertinent to Caribbean media development in a changing environment.

“…We will be bringing an update on digital transition that is happening in the region…we will be revisiting media freedoms and communication rights as they affect Caribbean peoples…also taking a look at some of the recent developments, particularly the convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications – that all of us are very aware of…we are also paying attention to the fact that Caribbean media are and always have been an international voice with a regional emphasis,” she said.

Sonia Gill, CBU Secretary General

Sonia Gill, CBU Secretary General

Gill told reporters at a media launch for the event last week Thursday at the Grenadian By Rex Resort that one of the items high on the agenda is a change to the bylaws of the Union to allow for social media and other electronic media outlets to become members of the body, which was formed in 1970.

“Social Media is very much significant in the world today, and there is a continuing strong push in the area, so when we meet, one of the things will be an amendment to the bylaws of the CBU to provide for members of digital media houses to become full members,” she said.

Odette Campbell, Convener of the Assembly and head of the local organising committee, who is General Manager of  the Grenada Broasting Network (GBN), said that this year’s assembly would also highlight a forum on communication rights and freedoms in the Caribbean, as well as the launch of a new project partnership between the CBU, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Public Media Alliance, formerly called the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA).

Campbell disclosed that a number of entities are collaborating for a successful execution of the event, but chief among them is the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA).

GTA representative, Delysia Decoteau, told the launch that participants of the three-day conference would also be getting a taste of the Spice Isle while here.

Decoteau placed on record the authority’s pleasure to be associated with the assembly, pointing to the high level of exposure inclusive for Grenada’s tourism product among regional journalists.

Meanwhile, event organizers have hailed this year’s CBU assembly as significantly historic, as for the first time, it will feature a Caribbean-China media exchange.

“I believe that this exchange will be a very successful one,” remarked Chinese Ambassador to Grenada Madam Ou Boqian, who confirmed the participation of five top media houses from her homeland.

“We have confirmation from China National Radio, China Radio International, CCTV, China Economic Daily and Xinhua News Agency,” the Chinese Ambassador said.

“We are honoured to have their participation,” Secretary General Gill declared.

The Assembly is receiving support from the Government of Grenada and a number of corporate entities including the Grenada Distillers, Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), Grenada Electricity Services Ltd (Grenlec), Bryden and Minors, Glenleg Spring Water, FLOW, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Grenada Airports Authority and GBN.

No more ECCB issuing of one and two cents

As of July 1, 2015 the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) is discontinuing the issuance of the 1 and 2 cent coins to Commercial banks, according to Resident Representative of the ECCB, Linda Felix-Berkeley.

Linda Felix Berkeley – ECCU representative in Grenada

Linda Felix Berkeley – ECCU representative in Grenada

She also told THE NEW TODAY newspaper in an interview on Monday the commercial banks in turn will no longer circulate the 1 cent and 2 cent coins to customers who conduct transactions with them.

Felix-Berkeley said that this decision was taken by the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in light of the high production cost of the coins coupled with their very low purchasing power and the public’s perceived inconvenience in using the coins.

She stated that the ECCB has put in place what she called “rounding rules” to facilitate the change and that only settlement of cash transactions requires rounding.

“The rules indicate that when the total transaction value ends in X cents and payment is by cash, rounding should be done up or down to the nearest five cent increment,’ she said.

According to Felix-Berkeley the rounding system which came from ECCB suggest that prices with an end value of 1,2,6 or 7 should be rounded down and prices with an end value of 3,4,8 or 9 should be rounded up.

“Where the total cash payment by any consumer or vendor is of a value ending in one cent or two cents, it shall be rounded down to the nearest ten cents. Where the total cash payment by any consumer or vendor is of a value ending in three cents or four cents it shall be rounded up to the nearest five cents”, she said.

“…Where the total cash payment by any consumer or vendor is of a value ending in six cents or seven cents, it shall be rounded down to the nearest five cents. Where the total cash payment by any consumer or vendor is of a value ending in eight cents or nine cents, it shall be rounded up to the nearest ten cents and where the total cash payment by any consumer or vendor is of a value ending in zero cents or five cents, it shall remain unchanged,” she added.

Felix-Berkeley disclosed that the rounding system would not be applied to non-cash payments such as cheques, debit or credit cards.

However, all transactions for which EC cash will be given back as change or for settlement require rounding, such as the exchange of foreign currency, or the use of third party cheques.

Although the issuance of the coins have been stopped, Felix-Berkeley said the public has up until June 30th 2020 to continue using the coins to pay for goods and services but should not receive them back as change  and to redeem the coins at the banks and get face value for them.

Patrick Simmons speaks ‘outstanding’

As the former Minister of Sports I would like to applaud my former colleague Minister, Arley Gill for raising the conversation on “Producing more Kirani-type athletes” in the public domain.

Additionally, it is heartening for him to recognise the contribution of the former Sports Minister in addressing the same issue.  In fact, he also made his contribution in addressing these issues and debated with great intensity and purpose in the Upper House of Parliament where he was the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government main spokesperson on Sports.

However, permit me to shed light on some of the points raised by Mr
Gill in his commentary.

Sports development must be addressed in a scientific way and the old method of piece-meal approach should be a thing of the past. As a result, this was the premise for developing a Sports Policy for Grenada.

The writing of the National Sports Policy with our guidance (Gill, Fullerton and Simmons) would have set the stage for the systematic development of sports in the state of Grenada.

The policy addresses all aspects of sports development and sets up a framework for a new structure to manage sports. The implementation of the policy started in 2012 with establishment of the Parish Sports Councils (PSC).

PSCs were set up in most parishes (using the St John’s model) along with a Secretariat and paid Secretary to serve all parish sporting leagues. The role and function of this body are spelt out in details in the Sports policy.

On the issue of the elite athlete and coaching programme, the implementation of that programme began in 2011. Coaches within the education system were transferred to the Ministry of Sports to begin the process.

Coach Albert Joseph (Kirani’s former coach) was assigned to athletics and Coach Ashley Cummings assigned to the Under-15 cricketers. Mr Gill, as you would recall every effort was made to have Coach Ulrick Scoon transferred to the Ministry to work with basketball but it did not materialise.

Making mention of basketball is compelling. This sport is in the best position for development in its present construct. Even without a national association, more than ten tournaments were organised in Grenada last year.

During the period 2008 to 2012 most of the existing courts were
repaired and we have witnessed the construction of about six new facilities with the most modern in the constituency of St Andrew South East.

To further strengthen the effort, both the current Coordinator of Sports and his deputy, were confirmed to their positions after serving for many years without any hope of having their status regularised.

On the question of Rondell Bartholomew, he had his health and fitness challenges over the years. However, from all reports emanating from overseas he is back on the track and looking forward to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.

In my opinion, if only the present controllers of sports had the political will to continue the implementation of the National Sports Policy (NSP) we will all benefit. It’s about the institutional strengthening of the existing organisations.

The implementation of the incentive and rewards system for our outstanding administrators, coaches, and athletes and the investment in the physical infrastructure for sports are also part of the policy.
(See details in the NSP)

The reconstruction of the national track & field and football stadium (former Senator knows the entire story of this project) will assist in the development but it takes vision for the maximising of its benefits.

Former Senator Gill’s investment into the writing of the NSP and his influence in given the present political construct, he should leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the present Controllers continue the implementation of the NSP. When this happens “Producing more Kirani-type athletes” will be possible.