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ISSUE NO.64 April 2002


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History created in Parliament

Attorney-General Gertel Thom
History was created on April 2nd when Attorney-General Gertel Thom made a presentation to the annual appropriations Bill in the House of Representatives. It was the first time that a woman had presented a detailed schedule of legislative measures to be placed before parliamentarians during a session of Parliament.

Her other presentations were as follows:

Protection of the child

One of the most important pieces of legislation to be put before the House deals with protection of the child.

Recognizing that the government had set up a task force to tackle child pornography, the Attorney-General said that legislation would be instituted to establish a child care board, comprising members from the government and selected members of the public who work with children.

Its functions will include the counselling of children in need, the placement and supervision of children in foster homes, and the regulation of private institutions that provide day care services.

The board will be funded by the consolidated fund and donations from individuals and organisations.

Ms.Thom explained "Prime consideration will be given to the reform of the administration of the juvenile justice system. And serious consideration will have to be given to the whole legislative spectrum with respect to the child and women.

Disaster Preparedness Bills

As the country prepares itself for the approaching hurricane season, Attorney-General Gertel Thom has disclosed that government will be introducing two important pieces of legislation which will govern the running of disaster services and insurance companies in the country.

"It will also provide for the appointment of a director who would be responsible for preparation of a disaster preparedness review policy and the appropriate disaster preparedness and response plan."

The first bill, dealing with disaster preparedness, was drafted under the guidance of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and will be introduced to the House of Representatives shortly. Ms Thom explained that the bill's objective would be to provide an efficient and effective disaster management control system. She specified that, "This bill will make provisions for a disaster preparedness and response advisory committee, which will consist of persons from within government departments and also civil society.

The second new bill deals with disaster insurance and relocates the insurance office to within the financial services sector. It addresses the subject of averages as it pertains to claims, and the problem of homeowners receiving less compensation than they expected.

The Attorney-General promised that the public would be fully consulted on the new legislation and pledged to bring the two bills to Parliament during the current parliamentary session.

Electoral Reform Bill

The Attorney-General informed the House of Representatives that the government intends to continue the process of electoral reform.

Last December, the House of Representatives passed amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 2001, which sought to reform and restructure the electoral process thereby establishing a transparent system for registration and a framework for the conduct of free and fair elections.

The new Bill has been circulated to a number of organisations and individuals and has been discussed in public forums. As a result Schedules 1 and 11 of the present Act are to be repealed and replaced with legislation outlining the procedure for the conduct of elections and regulating voter registration.

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New US Ambassador pays first visit

 
Prime Minister Lester Bird and US Ambassador US Ambassador and Deputy Governor-General

Mr Earl N. Phillips Jr., the new US Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, presented his credentials to the Governor-General's Deputy, Ms. Yvonne Maginley on the 10th April. Mr Phillips has just taken up his appointment as US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean and is based at the mission in Barbados.

At his presentation ceremony, Ambassador Phillips spoke of the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States. "The United States and Antigua and Barbuda have a rich common historical heritage which includes shared traditions of democratic governance, respect for the rule of law and the observance of human rights. We are neighbours with similar interests and we are growing even closer in the new century."

He also visited the US Air Station at Coolidge, and paid a courtesy call on the Leader of the Opposition, Baldwin Spencer.

Prime Minister Lester Bird, who met the new ambassador the day before the presentation, welcomed him to Antigua and Barbuda and stressed the country's close cooperation with the United States on a variety of issues.

The discussions which centered on several bilateral and multilateral issues, lasted for an hour.

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POWA: All-male nominees an unwelcome departure

APOWA - the Professional Organisation for Women in Antigua and Barbuda - has declared that the government's decision to nominate an all male panel to serve on the new Electoral Reform Commission "represents an unwelcome departure from the administration's stated aim of appointing more women to senior and top positions.'"

In a recent release, POWA admitted that the present government has appointed more women than any other administration in the history of the country. However, it pointed out that Antigua and Barbuda still remains well behind its colleagues in the OECS, Caricom and indeed the Commonwealth when it comes to promoting the role of women in issues of governance and politics.

The organisation expressed its deep concern that no women had been nominated to serve on the Commission in its seven year long term.

POWA has therefore put forward four women who would be prepared to serve on the Commission.

It intends to write to both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition in the hope that the initial nominations might be reconsidered.

POWA demurred "We sincerely hope that both leaders will see fit to rethink their nominations in order to rectify what we consider to have been an oversight in not including women in their initial nominations."

In response to POWA's concerns the government stated that "The Attorney-General is a woman, the President of the Senate is a woman, so is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Principal of the Antigua State College is a woman and just recently a brilliant young woman was appointed as a Senator in the Upper House. The Resident Tutor of the School for Continuing Studies of the University of the West Indies is also a woman, the Deputy Governor-General is a woman. Therefore, this talk about women being sidelined politically is a tad away from the truth."

It also pointed out that the present administration continues to work for the advancement of women in Antigua and Barbuda.

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Government of China to consider upgrading the Antigua Recreation Grounds
Prime Minister Lester Bird and Ambassador Yang Shixiang Director of Public Works B.T. Lewis signs Design Contract while Chinese interpreter assists

On Thursday March 28, the People's Republic of China and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda signed an agreement for the renovation of the track and lighting system of YASCO Sports Complex.

The agreement paves the way for the replacement of 400 meters of training tracks surface at YASCO, the construction of a round-drainage covered ditch inside the track, and the improvement of the lighting system at the training football field and track.

Prime Minister Bird thanked the Chinese Government for its assistance in the development of sports in Antigua and Barbuda and also praised Chinese Ambassador Mr. Yang Shixiang for his efforts in fostering the close relationship that exists between both countries.

In addition, the Prime Minister urged the representative of the government of China to consider assisting in the upgrade of the Antigua Recreation Grounds. He said that this would be of great significance to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and he plans to discuss the issue further with the Government of China when he visits later this year.

Also during the ceremony, Director of Public Works Mr. B.T. Lewis signed a contract for an improvement project for the Antigua and Barbuda Exhibition Centre. The Renovation work on the Multi-Purpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre is expected to commence within a few weeks time with the arrival of materials and equipment for the completion of the project. The work will include tile replacement at the Centre's Perry Bay entrance, the construction of a 100 seat pavilion and three new main gates.

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Government will not consider wholesale retrenchment

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Asot Michael has ruled out government cutting its workforce. Debating the 2002 Budget in the Senate on 18th April, Michael said that "government cannot and will not consider, at this time, any wholesale retrenchment of public sector employees, until such time as it finds the ways and means to cut expenditure and increase revenue collection measures."

However, Senator Michael said that government would be looking at a home-grown adjustment programme of stabilisation, whereby it would actively pursue alternative employment designed to redeploy existing government workers in the public service and the private sector.

"In an effort to gain broad based support for its adjustment programme, the government held extensive talks with the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank," Senator Michael said.

Although he acknowledged that something must be done about the size of the public sector, he nevertheless stated, "Our employment policy has resulted in Antiguans and Barbudans, including public servants, being able to enjoy a high standard of living and a good quality of life, considered amongst the highest in the world. We recognise though, that the time has come for a different strategy to be employed."

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Offshore banks to establish physical presence in Antigua and Barbuda

Offshore Financial Institutions in Antigua and Barbuda have agreed to establish a physical presence in Antigua and Barbuda.

This agreement was reached during a one day Offshore Banker's Consultation organized by the International Financial Sector Regulatory Authority (IFSRA), which was held in Antigua and Barbuda at the Jolly Beach Resort on Tuesday 26th March 2002.

During the consultation, Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's Chief Negotiator on International Financial Services and High Commissioner to London outlined the US Patriot Act, that prohibits US licensed financial institutions from having correspondent accounts with banks that do not have any physical presence in an offshore jurisdiction.

Sir Ronald pointed out that sixteen of the twenty-one financial institutions registered in Antigua and Barbuda do not have a physical presence.
He explained that if these banks wish to enjoy correspondent relations with United States banks, they must comply with the Patriot Act and establish a physical presence in Antigua and Barbuda.

Sir Ronald seemed satisfied with the outcome of the conference, saying, "I am pleased to say that as a result of the consultation, all of the banks have agreed to establish a physical presence in Antigua and Barbuda and that's good news. It means that they will be renting buildings, renting homes to house their staff and buying vehicles. They will also contribute to the purchase of goods and services in the private sector and all of this is going to help to stimulate the economy."

He gave assurances that the banks will each have compliance officers who will report suspicious transactions to the country's Financial Intelligence Unit and that every effort will be made to ensure that the cost of doing business in Antigua and Barbuda, including the level of taxation, is competitive with other jurisdictions. Sir Ronald further noted that both the economy of Antigua and Barbuda and the banks would ultimately benefit from the agreement.

Sir Ronald also explained that the bankers had agreed to harmonize reporting and International Prudential Standards. Under the guidance of IFSRA the banks will keep a percentage of their deposits in reserve so that depositors are not put at risk and their money remains safe.

Bankers from as far as Holland, Panama and Curacao attended the consultation, which also produced a unanimous agreement on the importance of determined efforts to combat money laundering in all its forms, tax evasion and the financing of terrorism.

At the conclusion of the Consultation, all parties concerned expressed a desire to hold similar meetings every two years.

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Antigua and Barbuda countering money laundering
HE Sir Ronald Sanders, Chief Foreign Affairs Representative
with Ministerial Rank and High Commissioner

Antigua and Barbuda is getting tough with money launderers.

Head of Antigua and Barbuda's delegation, Sir Ronald Sanders, told a meeting of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, held in Tobago from April 8 to 10, that Antigua and Barbuda would shortly be introducing legislation in parliament providing for civil forfeiture of the proceeds of crime in money laundering cases.

Sir Ronald, in remarks made to the conference, said the driving force behind the proposed legislation, "is the observation that the vast majority of persons who commit serious money laundering offences within Antigua and Barbuda are domiciled elsewhere and launder the proceeds of foreign offences".

He informed members of the task force, who come from the English- speaking Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela and Central America, that the legislation has already been prepared.

Sir Ronald said that following arguments put forward by Antigua and Barbuda, a decision was taken to reorganise the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force to enable it to advocate the position of its members more audibly in international meetings.

He explained that the Memorandum of Understanding, which established the CFATF, was outmoded and that a working group comprising representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Panama, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic had been set up to reform the organisation.

Sir Ronald added that greater advocacy of the Caribbean's position is required at the Paris meetings of the FATF, where the standards are set and the rules made by the G7 countries. He said that the situation in which decisions are taken without the participation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force should be avoided.

The regional working group has to meet and submit a report before October, Sir Ronald went on.

In addition to strengthening the tools available to the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) to combat money laundering, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has also resolved to strengthen the ONDCP itself.

"This is to be done by means of the ONDCP Bill, which will also be presented to Parliament this Spring. When this Bill is enacted, the ONDCP will cease to be an arm of the executive and will become a statutory institution with special responsibility for the enforcement of Antigua and Barbuda's anti-money laundering legislation," Sir Ronald stated.

He continued: "In addition to establishing the ONDCP as an institution in itself, the legislation will provide for the appointment of a Director and of Investigation Officers with powers to investigate breaches of our money laundering laws."

The Tobago meeting received applications from Guyana and Honduras and agreed to advise the Ministerial council meeting to be held in October that these applications should be accepted. Representatives from donor countries, the United States, Britain, Canada, France and institutions such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations and the European Union also attended the April 8-10 meeting.

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International recognition for hospital official

Hazelyn Martin-Henry, Chief Medical Technologist of the Holberton Hospital, was last month admitted as 'member' to the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE).

Founded in 1933, ACHE is an international professional society which represents nearly 30,000 healthcare executives. After being admitted as 'members', professionals can progress to higher titular levels after exams and a number of years' demonstrated service.

A past student of the Antigua Girls' High School, Ms. Martin-Henry holds a certificate with merit from the College of Arts, Science & Technology in Jamaica, a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland, USA, and a Masters of Science in Health Services Management from the University of London. She is a member of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Academy of Microbiology. She has been employed at the Holberton Hospital for more than 25 years.

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Nationals walk for health

Photographs show enthusiastic nationals during their three and a half mile walk to celebrate World Walk for Health Day

On Sunday 7th April, 2002 Antiguans responded to the call of the country's Chief Health Inspector, Lionel Michael, inviting them to turn out en masse for a three and a half mile walk to celebrate World Walk for Health Day across the city of St. John's.

According to the Health Chief, "Lack of exercise and poor style of life across the globe has led to an increase in chronic diseases, which have now taken over from communicable diseases as the number one threat to health."

In addition, Mr. Michael pointed out that the walk was a social and psychological event. He called on the nation to exercise regularly in order to reduce diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

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Disabled persons to benefit from vocational training

On 9th April a 22-year-old women and 24-year-old man, both with disabilities, began technical vocational training at the National Centre for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) in San Fernando, Trinidad.

Rhonda Stevens, who is hearing-impaired, and Bernard Warner, who is an amputee, travelled to Trinidad on scholarships from the Antigua and Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities (ABAPD) to take up a 10-month training course in office practice and woodwork/upholstery respectively.

The candidates will receive vocational assessment and testing, computer literacy, remedial education and independent living skills as part of the total package, in addition to certification in the chosen courses.

The scholarships are funded in part by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and facilitated by the Disabled Peoples' Organizations of the Caribbean (DPOC)

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PAHO Centennial Quilt presented in Antigua
The PAHO Centennial Quilt displayed by Nurses at the Nurses Association Building in St John's A section of the honourees

On Thursday 11th April, the Ministry of Health and Social Improvement held a ceremony to mark the acceptance of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Centennial Quilt at the Nurses Association Headquarters Building in St. John's.

During the ceremony twenty-three persons including two Organisations were honoured as National Health Heroes/Heroines and philanthropists.

Among those honoured were Doctors Margaret O'garro, L.J. Charles Snr., Ivor Heath, Charles Locker and Prince Ramsey, Ambassador Adolphus Freeland, Nurse Helen Challenger, Ms. Sheila Pigott, Mr. Lionel Michael, the Mill Reef Club and Friends of Holberton Hospital.

Senator Sam Aymer, Adviser to the Minister of Health, delivered the keynote address and accepted the Centennial Quilt, presented by Ms. Clare Forrester - Media Communications Adviser and Co-ordinator of the PAHO Centennial Celebrations in the sub-region.

The Quilt is made up of flags of the countries that belong to PAHO.

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MP discloses his personal assets to the House
Gaston Browne, Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of St John's City West

In the light of increasing calls for government transparency, parliamentary representative for the constituency of St. John's City West, Gaston Browne, has voluntarily disclosed his personal assets. Mr Browne made the disclosure on 4th April during his contributions to the 2002 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives.

He told fellow members that he was participating in two ventures: the first in heavy-duty equipment, the second in construction of small housing units for lower working class citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.

He said, "Having come out of the private sector and recognised that there is strong public demand for transparency and good governance by public officials in Antigua and Barbuda, I have chosen to declare my interests in these areas, which are designed to provide employment opportunities for young nationals. The bottom line is that I am seeking to find employment for my people, and am hoping that before the general elections, I will employ 50 from my own constituency."

The City West MP informed his colleagues that, although he often found himself in trouble with his business partners when he did work for free, he was committed to using the resources available to him to help poor people. He explained, "What I have done is to sacrifice my standard of living and invest my money as an economic contribution to the development of this country."

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Percival cautions against government criticism
Bernard Percival, Parliamentary Representative
for St John's Rural North

Former Health Minister and now backbencher Bernard Percival cautioned members of the parliamentary opposition on 4th April to be careful in their apparent support for those who are bent on criticising the government's every move.

Mr Percival told the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) that "It is quite easy for you to criticise, but when you are sitting on this side of the aisle, and when you are the one preparing to take this country forward under all the adversity, that is when you will truly recognise what leadership is all about."

He went on to deplore those areas of the media which he claimed had built their popularity on a policy of knocking the political directorate of the country, regardless of the party in power. He warned the opposition, "We cannot continue on a daily basis attacking the very pillars of that democracy; attacking the very institutions of that democracy; and attacking the very individuals who would ensure that democracy survives in our country."

Addressing the atmosphere of hostility prevailing over the political arena in Antigua and Barbuda, Mr Percival appealed to all present-day politicians to set a better example for young people. If not, he said, " it means that we fail to attract young men and women to come into the field. We leave them with the feeling that it is a dirty business and that all we do is rant and rave, criticise and attack."

Finally, Mr Percival advised against the practice of reviling investors who had used their financial resources to help develop the country.

He had high praise for the efforts of Texan investor R. Allen Stanford. The MP thought that Mr Stanford demonstrated professionalism and quality in all his investments in Antigua and Barbuda, particularly in the Airport Development Project.

Mr. Percival reminded his colleagues that Mr Stanford had shown a steadfast commitment to the country, in spite of overtures from other islands.

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Swiss American Bank has a new name

The Swiss American Bank Ltd., the first established offshore jurisdiction, has unveiled a new image and has announced a change of name to Global Bank of Commerce, Ltd.

Swiss American was formed in April 1983 and became the first International Financial institution governed by the International Business Corporations, Act of 1982.

The Bank's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brian Stuart-Young, says that the name change better reflects the new business strategy; that of expanding its technology-driven products to support electronic commerce, and to further improve existing products and service regionally and internationally.

"The landscape for international financial services has altered significantly in terms of the jurisdictional environment, improved regulations and compliance with international standards," said Mr. Stuart-Young.

In this context, the Bank's shareholders and Board of Directors have strategically positioned the Bank so that it provides the highest quality expertise in global financial services: its commitment to best practices in banking enhanced by the benefit of cutting-edge communications and payment delivery systems.

Chief Operating Officer Vere Hill, explained that future plans for development include the introduction of Internet Banking Services and the re-branding of their current credit card services using the new name.

He added that the Bank will also be launching a new Debit Card product and forecast that there would be a general concentration on establishing strong payment systems for account management and commerce, with specific attention to web-based transactions.

Global Bank of Commerce is located at Woods Centre and owns banking premises on the Friar's Hill Road. A local Board of Directors, management and thirty members of staff operate the Bank.

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Observer Group once again violating Law

The Observer Group is again violating the terms of a licence granted to one of it's members, Venture Capital Ltd, to provide Internet service for data. The company is depriving taxpayers of Antigua and Barbuda of money that belongs to the State.

Both Cable and Wireless and APUA have complained to the Ministry of Telecommunications, saying that they have reliable information that international telephone calls are being received and distributed at the premises of Observer Publications in St. John's which are bypassing both Cable and Wireless and APUA. This is both a flagrant violation of the law and the terms of the licence granted by the government to Venture Capital Ltd, owned by the Derricks.

A few weeks ago the telecommunications Director was forced to seize a VSAT located at the home of Winston Derrick which was being used to siphon off millions of dollars in international telephone calls from both Cable and Wireless and APUA. In addition, no taxes were being paid on these calls and the taxpayers of Antigua and Barbuda were being robbed of revenue that should accrue to the State.

The High Court had granted a mandatory injunction instructing APUA to provide circuits to the Observer Group ostensibly for the use of the Radio Station. It now appears that the Court may have been deceived.

The Ministry has launched an investigation into this affair. It is said that appropriate action will be taken to ensure that the taxpayers of Antigua and Barbuda are not defrauded, and that the legitimate operations of Cable and Wireless and APUA, both of which employ hundreds of people, are not jeopardised.

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Taxmen threatened
Junior Minister of Finance, Senator Asot Michael

The lives of the five Indian forensic tax consultants on loan to the government by the government of India have been threatened.

Junior Minister of Finance Senator Asot Michael revealed that the Indian team, which is in Antigua to assist the government with its tax collection machinery, "has been receiving violent threats from the business community, threatening their lives if they don't get out of the country."

Senator Michael made the revelation in the Senate during debate on the 2002 Budget. He explained "We have to provide them with security at their homes, and, we will give them whatever security is necessary in order to protect them. I also want to applaud them for the good job they are doing in revealing millions of dollars outstanding from the business community".

The Junior Finance Minister further disclosed that a local business, registered in the country since 1962, had taken the government to court, challenging the amendments to the Income Tax Law.

"This Caribbean company has been registered in this country since 1962. They have never paid, one red cent in taxes. This begs the question: if they have not paid any taxes and have consistently over the years shown losses - why would they still be in business since 1962 and every single year declare a loss?" Senator Michael queried.

Senator Michael pointed out that there is not only a culture of tax avoidance and but also of tax evasion in the country. He said "the government will deal with companies that deliberately and flagrantly engage in harmful tax practices and will, if necessary, prosecute tax avoiders and evaders alike."

The Junior Finance Minister further noted that 75 per cent of unincorporated businesses had not paid their two per cent return, while over 4,000 businesses including lawyers, doctors, architects pay absolutely no tax at all.

"There is much 'to-do' about our debt, but I hear no concern voiced by the leaders of the private sector, the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce, the non governmental organisations - no concern that the arrears of corporate tax stands at nearly $100 million. We are not introducing any new taxes at all, what we are saying is that we will collect the existing taxes that are on books - we are going to enforce this rigidly," Senator Michael announced.

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Government moves to collect outstanding taxes

The Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), William Schouten has revealed that the Government is preparing to take defaulters to court in order to collect outstanding taxes and other monies owed to it.

Mr. Schouten pointed out that, whilst some business owners have objected to the assessments and have entered appeals, the courts have dismissed a number of these, because most persons did not follow the requirements of the process as stated in the Income Tax Amendment Act 2000.

The Commissioner explained that the IRD has also stepped up its programme of auditing the accounts of businesses and is appealing to corporate taxpayers to support the effort by furnishing officers with the information needed to carry out these assessments.

In the 2002 Budget Address, Prime Minister Lester Bird, who is also the Minister of Finance, drew attention to the fact that a number of businesses have been failing in their duty to pay taxes. He warned that the Government will move speedily to collect the revenue it is owed.

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Prime Minister Bird accepts Minister's resignation

Former Trade and Industry Minister, Hilroy Humphreys The Medical Benefits Building on Nevis Street

In an address to the nation on the evening of Saturday 20th April, Prime Minister Lester Bird announced that he had accepted the letter of resignation tendered by the former Health Minister, Hilroy Humphreys, in an episode which vindicates and strengthens the workings of open democracy in Antigua.

Mr. Humphreys has been one of the subjects of an ongoing investigation conducted by the Commission of Enquiry into alleged irregularities at the Medical Benefits Scheme.

Mr. Humphreys, who until his resignation was the Minister responsible for Trade and Consumer Affairs, defended his decision to step down as 'honourable', and claimed that his errors in office had been made in good faith.

He admitted that, "on reflection I may have acted hastily and without due care and attention, but that at all times it was for the benefit of my constituents."

His resignation follows a decisive move made by the Prime Minister last year to relieve three ministers of their posts.

In his statement, the Prime Minister endorsed Mr. Humphreys' decision as "the fit and proper thing after full, free and open discussions with me."

Recognising that the Minister's "misjudgements" had been deeply regrettable, he stressed that Humphreys had rightly reacted to his "political conscience", born of so many years' able government service in two Labour Party administrations.

However, the Prime Minister emphasised that with the event of Mr. Humphreys' resignation and an independent external enquiry initiated by the government, "we are witnessing the democratic process in full motion.

"In a less democratic state, these open wounds would have been masked from the public gaze, if not hidden altogether." He reaffirmed his dedication to the democratic imperative of addressing the weaknesses and faults of government transparently, in an effort to enhance governance of the nation as a whole.

The enquiry into ministerial abuses of the Medical Benefits Scheme continues.

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Antigua and Barbuda responds to FATF questionnaire on terrorism financing ahead of schedule

Antigua and Barbuda has responded ahead of schedule to a questionnaire on curbing terrorism financing from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). On the 25th April, the country's Chief Foreign Affairs Representative with Ministerial Rank, Sir Ronald Sanders, submitted Antigua and Barbuda's answers to the Paris-based FATF.

The FATF is a body established by the world's seven most developed countries to establish standards and practices for fighting money laundering. On 31st October last year in the wake of the atrocities of September 11th in the United States, the mandate of the body was extended to include curbing terrorism financing. The FATF set eight criteria by which it judges the compliance of jurisdictions in the international fight against terrorism financing.

On 31st January this year, the FATF issued a questionnaire seeking information on the extent to which jurisdictions have implemented measures relating to the special recommendations on terrorist financing. The body set 1st May as the deadline for the submission of answers.

Sir Ronald said, "On March 6th, Prime Minister Lester Bird asked me to head a high-level committee to measure Antigua and Barbuda's legislative and other machinery against the FATF criteria and to prepare answers to the Questionnaire. I am pleased to say that Antigua and Barbuda measured up well against the criteria particularly as we are one of the few countries in the Caribbean to have passed legislation criminalizing the financing of terrorism".

The Antigua and Barbuda diplomat said, "Mr Bird is determined that Antigua and Barbuda's should be proactive in ensuring that our financial institutions are not used for money laundering and terrorism financing. We want our jurisdiction to continue to be seen as dealing only with legitimate business".

Sir Ronald paid tribute to the work of his colleagues on the high-level Committee who included Lebrecht Hesse and Althea Crick of the International Financial Sector Regulatory Authority and Wrenford Ferrance, Clive Scott and Alan Reid of the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy.

"Obviously from the answers submitted to the Questionnaire, or if they receive no answers at all, the FATF will be able to judge the level of compliance of jurisdictions around the world with the new criteria for fighting terrorist financing", Sir Ronald said.

"It may be that the FATF will find that some jurisdictions have much to do to be in compliance, but I am confident Antigua and Barbuda will not be one of them", the Antigua and Barbuda representative concluded.

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Antigua rated 'best in the world'

Antigua and Barbuda has received top ratings from a number of skippers who took part in the recent Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Tall Ships World Peace Cup.

"There is no port in the world where you sail out of the harbour and catch the wind like we do in Antigua," said Uli Pruesse, skipper of the Tall Ship, Star Clipper.

The Star Clipper was one of two Tall Ships which competed in this year's "Old Road" 20 mile race. The other being Eye of the Wind. Now in its 15th year, the competition is one of the biggest classic regattas in the world, with an average of 50 entrants.

In 2000, the Antigua Classic was the biggest of all the Classics held internationally.

Pruesse said that while the conditions may be the 'best in the world', there needs to be a conscious effort by Antiguans to rally around the sport.

Mike Cox, skipper of Velsheda, which won the first race of the regatta, supported the claims made by Pruesse, "I love racing in Antigua," Cox said, "it is one of the best places in the world to race."

Skipper Thomas Perry added that, not only are the conditions top class, but the services offered at the Antigua Yacht Club and the Falmouth Harbour can be compared to any such services worldwide.

"The local support at this facility is tremendous, there is no shortage of skilled labour, which is second to none around the world and the services are superb and parts along with just about anything necessary for smooth sailing are available here," Perry said.

The services at the Antigua Yacht Club include free satellite direct to the boats with eight major channels for sports, news and movies.

There are also internet, fax telephone, FedEx and mail services as well as brokerage on incoming shipments such as spare parts, containers and crew mail.

While the racing conditions and services are world class, Pruesse said that more has to be done in order to accommodate the large vessels in order to attract more Tall Ships race entrants.

"I can envision 20 Tall Ships in the harbour waiting to race in this event in the future, but for that to happen, the harbour will have to be dredged," Pruesse said.

Pruesse stated that "More ships will come but at the moment, because of the shallow depth of the harbour, we are able to dock up at the pier, which is a deterrent to some people."

He is, however, quite aware of the strong opposition to dredging in Antigua waters.

Members of the public expressed concerns about the environment when the government decided to dredge the St. John's harbour to accommodate mega-ships for the cruise industry.

"Each year, billions of dollars worth of boats participate in the Classic Regatta and their contribution to the economy is tremendous," Pruesse said.

"If a balance could be found whereby we could dredge yet be mindful of the environment, then the economy would benefit immensely."

This suggestion will have to be seriously considered as tourism worldwide, especially after the terrorists attack on the World Trade Centre in the United States, is under threat.

"I think that the attitude of the people towards yachting will have to change if we are to maintain this vibrant economy, which we can ill-afford to lose," Pruesse added.

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World's largest cruise liner docks in Antigua

The world's largest cruise ship 'The Adventure of the Seas' docked at Heritage Quay Port in Antigua A view of the interior of the cruise liner

Cruise tourism in Antigua and Barbuda got a major boost on Wednesday 17th April when the Adventure of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, docked at the Heritage Quay Port in St. John's with over 3000 passengers, on its inaugural visit.

Adventure of the Seas has been described as a revolutionary marvel of naval engineering. It is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International from Miami, Florida. The ship's features include an ice-skating rink; a royal promenade; rock climbing wall, a five-storey theatre and an excellent fitness centre.

Tourism Officials in Antigua and Barbuda expressed their delight in having the Adventure of the Seas in town because its weekly visits are good news for the country's cruise tourism product.

Speaking at a special reception to market the occasion, the Director of Government Relations for Royal Caribbean International (RCI), Alfred Sanchez, said he was delighted to be in Antigua once more, and was impressed with what he saw. He explained "I go island hopping quite a bit in my role and I am able to see much of what's going on in the Caribbean, and I have to say that in my experience, there is not another island in the entire Caribbean that is spending as much time, effort, money and energy in every facet of the community. From the sea port to the hospital, airport and the roadways."

He complimented Prime Minister Lester Bird for his leadership in charting the course development of Antigua and Barbuda.

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Rosewood Hotels and Resorts to manage Jumby Bay Resort

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts has announced that it will assume management of the exclusive private island hideaway, Jumby Bay, Antigua. The announcement was made jointly by Jim Brown, President of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and Roland Franklin, Director of the Jumby Bay Island Company.

The 39-room property will immediately undergo a $2.5 million-plus refurbishment which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Dan Reid, formerly of the Amanusa Resort in Bali, has been named managing director of Jumby Bay. Reid has worked in Antigua before and brings extensive Caribbean experience to the position.

"We look forward to our new partnership with this well-regarded and highly established Caribbean island resort," commented Rosewood President, Jim Brown.

Antigua and Barbuda's High Commissioner in London, Sir Ronald Sanders said, "We are delighted that one of Antigua's leading properties will be managed by this highly prestigious management company and we anticipate that Jumby Bay will soon be reaching new heights of excellence."

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High Commission for Antigua and Barbuda
2nd floor, 45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP

Tel: 020 7258 0070 Fax: 020 7258 7486

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