Caribbean News Round-up

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Missing ship: El Faro confirmed to have sunk off Bahamas

_85890866_1453b2d5-71ae-40c3-acc2-55ea8760bbaf[BBC] – The lost cargo ship El Faro sank in Bahamian waters after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin, according to the US Coast Guard.

The 224m (735ft) vessel and its crew of 33 have been missing since issuing a distress call on Thursday.

The coast guard says an “unidentifiable body” has been found but a search remains underway.

On Sunday, search planes found debris including life jackets, containers and oil in the water.

It was this find that led rescuers to the conclusion that the ship had sank.

Along with the body, an empty, heavily damaged life boat has also been found.

“We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life,” US Coast Guard Capt Mark Fedor said, but adding the crew faced “challenging conditions to survive”.

The coast guard says it has searched 70,000 sq nautical miles attempting to find the crew of 28 Americans and five Poles.

The ship, which was travelling from Florida to Puerto Rico, was taking on water before it sank according to the distress call.

Its owners, Tote Maritime, say the ship lost power after its engines broke down.

 

$90M SPENT ON STATE MEDIA

media[Trinidad Express] – Was the $90 million spent on State media last year alone a good use of Government resources?

This was the question raised by Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie yesterday as the eighth biennial General Assembly met at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, to discuss the future of State media.

In his feature address, Cuffie pointed out that Government spent over $90 million to keep operations at its three television stations, four radio stations and three cable channels going.

The Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG), the Parliament channel, the Government Information Services Limited (GISL), Talk City 91.1, Next FM 99.1, Sweet 100.1 FM are among the media entities owned by the State.

Cuffie was of the view that last year’s spending on State media appeared untenable especially in light of a contracting economy and depressed energy prices.

Tufton wants JLP probe of St Catherine West Central vote

Vote[Jamaica Obersver] – THE Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate selection for the St Catherine West Central constituency, which saw Dr Christopher Tufton losing by 15 votes to Councillor Devon Wint, was marred by voter fraud and inconsistencies with the voters’ list, according to a report filed by Tufton to JLP General Secretary Horace Chang.

A major highlight of the report is the question surrounding the chain of custody of the ballots which lacked a vital security feature — the seal of a Justice of the Peace.

“This raises serious concerns, particularly in view of information available to my team regarding the chain of custody of the ballots which shows that ballots were available to persons who wished to engage the ‘golden ballot’,” Tufton stated in his report.

The ‘golden ballot’ is basically a pre-marked ballot given to a voter before he/she enters the polling station. The voter is required to place that ballot in the box, then leave the station with the blank ballot on which he/she should have voted, give that blank ballot to the person who gave them the pre-marked ballot, after which the voter is paid.

Tufton also raised the issue of people, particularly in the Point Hill Division, being allowed to vote without national identification, namely passport, driver’s licence, or voter ID card, as agreed before the selection.

The Point Hill Division is represented by Wint in the St Catherine Parish Council and Tufton said he had, before the election, voiced concerns about the voters’ list there.

According to Tufton, based on the voter turnout in that division, it was obvious that the voters’ list was padded.

He pointed also to two examples of individuals who were never JLP workers in the constituency but whose names were included on the Point Hill list. One of those persons, he said, “has been bedridden for some 10 years”, yet he is listed as a delegate.

“A ‘delegate’, as you are well aware, refers to a person who attended the last party conference representing the constituency,” Tufton said in his report to Chang.

He also named another man who was listed as an outdoor agent in Point Hill but who has been in a wheelchair for the last two general elections.

Both men, Tufton said, were taken to vote.

“A voters’ list was presented to the parties dated September 17, 2015. On September 22, 2015 a number of changes were made, which was communicated to my agent. This bore 11 additions — one to the Ginger Ridge Division, three to the Red Hills Division, and seven to the Point Hill Division,” Tufton outlined.

“However, the final voters’ list presented on the eve of the election on Friday, September 25, 2015 had several other changes not communicated to my team and agreed to by us,” he added.

He also named one of his supporters who he said was not allowed to vote because he lives in the neighbouring constituency, however, three of Wint’s supporters, who live on the same road as his (Tufton’s) supporter, were not removed from the list and were allowed to vote.

Tufton, who served in the Cabinet in the last JLP Government, also pointed to other instances of irregularities and asked Chang to investigate the claims.

“I strongly advise that you look into these matters and further, that you meet with the workers and delegates of the constituency to address their issues of concern. Otherwise, this could have a negative impact on the morale and efforts of the JLP organisation in the constituency,” Tufton said in a cover letter accompanying the report.

Tufton’s report has placed added pressure on the JLP Secretariat after Everald Warmington, who chairs the party’s Area Two organisation, wrote to Chang voicing strong objection to what he described as the Secretariat’s corrupt actions in constituency selections.

Claiming that there has not been an honest or uncontroversial selection in any constituency in recent times, Warmington told Chang that he would not participate in any other Selection Committee meetings.

Warmington also asked how could the JLP expect Jamaicans to trust the party to govern when it treats its own members with such injustice.

Wint, who worked for several years as a clerk at the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court in Half-Way-Tree, secured 211 votes to Tufton’s 196.

 

Flights, church services cancelled in Bermuda as Hurricane Joaquin approaches

151002131319-07-hurricane-joaquin-1002-exlarge-169[CMC] – Incoming flights have been cancelled as well as church services at the Anglican Church as powerful Hurricane Joaquin bore down on Bermuda packing 115 miles per hour winds after earlier causing death and destruction in The Bahamas.

In its 8:00 am EDT bulletin, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Joaquin remained a Category Three storm, down from a strong Category Four storm on Saturday when it had sustained winds of 155 mph. The NHC added that further weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours. Conditions were already deteriorating in Bermuda with three to five inches of rain expected through Sunday.

The hurricane was located 160 nautical miles south-west of Bermuda moving to the north-east at around 21 mph.

The Bermuda Weather Service said Joaquin’s closest point of approach to the island is forecast to be 62 nautical miles to the west-northwest at 9:00 pm local time.

The Ministry of Transport late Saturday said all flights to the island on Sunday – with the exception of Delta Air Lines which had yet to confirm its position – had been cancelled although American Airlines’ early-morning flights to Miami and New York were expected to go ahead.

Sunday’s ferry services were scrapped and bus service was due to be suspended at 10:00 am local time.

Two cruise ships – the Carnival Sunshine and Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas – earlier announced the cancellation of scheduled visits to the island.

Hardware stores on Saturday reported brisk business as homeowners made last-minute preparations for Joaquin – 12 months after two hurricanes, Fay and Gonzalo, struck the island within five days of each other, causing widespread power outages.

Michele Trott, a clerk at one store, said: “We’ve been really, really busy. People were lined up outside the gate before we opened this morning.”

She added: “People are mostly buying lumber, batteries, flashlights, ropes, and tarpaulins to get ready for the weather that’s coming.”

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