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ISSUE NO.83 November 2003

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Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from High Commissioner and Staff

WTO rules in favour of Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda has scored a moral victory in the cross border gaming dispute matter being heard by a panel at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The WTO panel investigating the complaint by Antigua and Barbuda against the United States rejected a request from the US for preliminary rulings on the matter.

A press release issued by the country's permanent delegation to the WTO, led by Sir Ronald Sanders, said that the US had asked the panel to dismiss Antigua and Barbuda's claims on procedural grounds.

“The proceeding will now follow its normal course with the United States having to present is full defence on the matter,” the release said.

According to Sir Ronald, “Some may have had doubts about the possibility of a small developing country participating in a WTO dispute settlement case on an equal footing with a major economic power such as the United States. The panel's ruling, however, shows that all WTO members are indeed equal before the law.”

Since July this year, Antigua and Barbuda has had a matter before the WTO, in response to efforts by the United States to outlaw the provision of gaming and betting services into the US from other countries. Antigua and Barbuda asserts that this is a violation of US commitments in the WTO.


Prime Minister Lester Bird attends Ninth Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads
Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation to the Ninth Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads –
front l to r: Prime minister Lester Bird and Sir Ronald Sanders (back) HE Colin Murdoch

Prime Minister Lester Bird led Antigua and Barbuda's delegation to the Ninth (9th) Special Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on 13th and 14th November.

The meeting included preparation for the 15th Inter-sessional Meeting in February of 2004 in Antigua where Mr. Bird will take over Chairmanship of CARICOM.

During the two-day meeting, the Heads received an update on the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). They discussed Caribbean/USA relations and the recent Breakfast Meeting between four CARICOM Prime Ministers and President George Bush. They also talked about the Special Summit of the Americas due to be held in January of 2004 in Mexico, CARICOM/European Relations, and the Cricket World Cup 2007.

Prime Minister Bird was accompanied to the meeting by Antigua and Barbuda's Chief Foreign Affairs Representative with Ministerial Rank Sir Ronald Sanders, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs His Excellency Mr. Colin Murdoch, and Senior Economist in the Ministry of Trade, Mr Elliott Paige.


China will loan Antigua and Barbuda US$2.25million for the creation of a new cricket stadium

Earlier this year, the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and China had agreed on an overall aid package of US$10 million. US$3.7 million had been allocated to the renovation of the Antigua Recreation Ground. However the government has decided that the country needs a new stadium if it wants to host matches during the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The Prime Minister recently explained that while the West Indies is applying to host the 2007 World Cup, each country must submit an individual bid.

Therefore, the government requested that an additional US$2.5 million of the Chinese aid package be allocated to the construction of a brand new stadium in order to support Antigua’ bid as a host country. The request was approved by China.


Cricket World Cup Bid Committee named

Cabinet has confirmed the members of the Bid Development Steering Committee and the Bid Development Unit for the Cricket 2007 world Cup.

Co-Chairman of the Steering Committee, Molwyn Joseph, said the function of the Bid Committee is to formalize the country's bid for World Cup 2007. The bid document will arrive by the end of November and each potential host country will shape their bid based on the capacity of their stadium and supporting infrastructure. The other members of the Committee are: Sports Minister Guy Yearwood as the other co-chair, Clarvis Joseph, Enoch Lewis and Andrew Michelin.

The purpose of the Bid Development Unit, is to prepare the bid and fill out the bid document. Bids are due in by next February and the results will be out by June 2004.

The Bid Development Unit is chaired by George Goodwin, and the Deputy Chairman is Don Charles. The other members are B.T Lewis, Gregory Shillingford, Andy Roberts, Ted Issac, Nathan Dundas, Assistant Commissioner James Hill, Hyram Ford, Clement Bird and Lorraine Headley.

If the bid is successfully negotiated, these committee come to an end and a long-term organisation will be created to implement the programme up to 2007.

However, the Antigua Cricket Association is questioning its participation in the bid process.

First Vice President of the Antigua Cricket Association (ACA), John Maginley, noted the only person on the bid development unit from the ACA was Hyram Ford, but that he was not appointed by the Association to be on the Committee.

"For the bid committee, the ACA should be involved in any of the decision reached in terms of cricket. Hyram Ford is acting in his own capacity, though he is fully capable, but he was not appointed by the ACA. We need to get this right," he stressed.


13 Honoured with National Awards

Dame Yvonne Maginley, DCN

Thirteen persons were honoured with National Awards as Antigua and Barbuda celebrated its 22nd Anniversary of Independence. Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir. James B. Carlisle GCMG, GCQS, conferred awards on the following persons:

Dame Commander of the Most
Distinguished Order of the Nation – DCN

Miss Yvonne Maginley - for Public Service

Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit – GCM
Miss Ineta Wallace - for Services to Nursing
Mr. Hugh Bailey - for Services to Sailing

Grand Officer of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit – GOM
Paul Paddy Winter - For Services to Bodybuilding
McAlister Abbott - for Services to Banking

Commander of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit – CM

Llwellyn Smith - for Services to Parliament and Port Authority

Officer of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit – OM

William Phillip (Posthumously) - For Community Service

Member of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit – OM
Stephen Joseph for Service to Business and Community
Ludwig Reynolds for Civic Awareness
Bill Abbott - for Public Service

Grand Cross of the Most Precious Order of Princely Heritage – GCH
Rupert Philo - for Services to Calypso Music

Grand Officer of the Most Precious Order of Princely Heritage – GOH
Vincent Freeland for Services to Steelband Music

Officer of the Most Precious Order of Princely Heritage – OH
Ickford Benjamin (Posthumously) - for Services to Bodybuilding, Weightlifting and Carnival.

Governor General Sir James Carlisle also knighted three individuals. They are:

Sir. Conrad Swan - For Contributions to the country’s National Honours System
Sir. Leroy McClin Emmanuel - For Services to Calypso Music
Sir Eustace Bernard Francis - For Services to Business and the Community.


Antiguans and Barbudans in London celebrate 22 years of Independence
Antigua and Barbuda National Association Choir - London

In the United Kingdom, over two hundred Antiguans and Barbudans gathered on Sunday November 2nd at The Church of St Marks’ in London’s Dalston district to celebrate twenty-two years of Antigua and Barbuda’s independence.

The gathering heard Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to the UK, Sir Ronald Sanders, identify a 24-year old Private in the nation’s Defence Force as epitomising the “independence generation of Antiguans and Barbudans”.

Sir Ronald said he had met Keithroy Titus two weeks before, during the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Ministerial meeting in Antigua. Noting that Titus was “very bright and very confident, and had twice graduated from gruelling Caribbean-wide courses at the top of his class,” Sanders said, “Titus is an Antiguan of the Independence generation. For him there are no limits to his ambition, no fear that there is a point beyond which he can not rise, no concern that a colonial government in a distant country could stunt his growth”

Sir Ronald told the packed Church that Titus’ paternal grandparents came from Liberta and he described the symbolic importance of the village to Antigua and Barbuda’s independence. The London-based diplomat said, “Land in the village were the first property owned by former slaves after emancipation in 1834. This event marked not only the occasion of their own personal freedom, but also their right to own assets. It was both the point of the liberation of former slaves from bondage, and the beginning of their economic empowerment”.

Noting that, in his message to the people of Antigua on Saturday, November 1st, the 22nd anniversary of Antigua and Barbuda’s Independence, Prime Minister Lester Bird had announced initiatives to grant lots to squatters in the Gray’s Farm/Green Bay area and in the Point area, as well as 99-year leasehold to farmers, Sanders said, “These initiatives will continue the empowerment of the poor and the vulnerable in Antigua and Barbuda that started in 1834 in Keithroy Titus’ family village of Liberta.”

Sir Ronald also thanked the Antigua and Barbuda community in the United Kingdom “for keeping the candle of love for your native land burning brightly in your hearts”. He told the audience, “Let me thank you for the efforts you make on Antigua and Barbuda’s behalf, let me thank you for maintaining your deep commitment to Antigua and Barbuda’s future. You, too, deserve recognition for your contribution to 22 years of Independence.”

The service was arranged by the Antigua and Barbuda National Association (London) and was attended by the Mayor of Walthamstow.


Prime Minister Bird appoints Osmund Lake as Minister to handle Airport and Aviation matters
Senator Osmund Lake, Junior Minister with special responsibilities for Aviation and Tourism

On 20th November, Senator Osmund Lake received his instruments of appointment as Junior Minister with special responsibilities for Aviation and Tourism.

At a brief ceremony at Government House, which was attended by his father Sir Edmund Lake and his Brother Carlton Lake, Senator Lake took the Ministerial oath in front of Governor-General Sir James Carlisle.

As required by the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, Lake, resigned from his position as Director of Flight Operations at LIAT, “Before I accepted the appointment I made closure with my former employer LIAT with whom I had an employment relationship for over 32 years,” he explained.

Prime Minister Lester Bird announced Senator Lake’s new appointment on 14th November. He said, “I have decided to strengthen ministerial responsibility for matters related to the Airport and Aviation to ensure that services crucial to tourism and travel generally are given full attention”.

Senator Lake will assist the substantive Minister, Mr Robin Yearwood. Mr Bird explained, “Deputy Prime Minister Robin Yearwood is burdened by a number of very active Ministries, including Finance, Housing and Public Utilities as well as Aviation and the Airport. Therefore, I have appointed Senator Lake, who has considerable experience and expertise in aviation matters to assist the Deputy Prime Minister with the day-to-day ministerial responsibilities for the Airport and Aviation”.

He is the ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) candidate in the Constituency of St John’s Rural North.


Antigua Hosts its First UWI Country Conference
(l to r) – Governor-General Sir James Carlisle, Education Minister Dr Rodney Williams, Professor Lawrence Carringtom – Pro Vice Chancellor UWI and Bernice Lake Q.C.

The University of the West Indies held the Antigua leg of its Country Conferences at the Jolly Beach Resort on13th –15th November.

The three-day event is 7th in a series of conferences being held under the theme: “Beyond Walls: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives.” The series is aimed at strengthening the University’s presence in the Non-Campus Countries.

Education Minister, Dr. Rodney Williams, addressed the gathering and applauded the efforts of the University of the West Indies for recognizing the fact that the solutions to many of the challenges that affect our island states can actually be found in the intellectual resources of the islands themselves.

“In the University’s programmes, every effort is made, and rightly so, to bring attention to Caribbean issues and challenges and ways in which these challenges can be met. I am proud to note that in addition to the three campuses, there is a Centre for Hotel and Tourism Management in the Bahamas, an innovative distance education facility and Schools of Continuing Studies in all of the supporting non-campus countries to ensure that a wide cross section of the population has access to a variety of educational resources and services,” Dr. Williams stated.

He explained that the goal of the Conference was to focus on issues relevant to Antigua and Barbuda and presenting solutions to prevailing challenges.

The keynote address was presented by noted Attorney and UWI Council Member, Bernice Lake Q.C.

The Conferences are held in response to a mandate from the UWI Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education. Antigua and Barbuda is represented on this Board by the Education Minister.


New project brings US$14 million investment

Antigua and Barbuda stands to benefit from two projects from the government of Japan.

These are fisheries development projects in Point Wharf and in Barbuda.

Agriculture Minister Vere Bird Jr. and Daven Joseph travelled to Japan recently to finalise negotiations with the Japanese. A team from Japan will visit Antigua and Barbuda before the end of the year to finalise the project designs.

Part of the US$14 million plan will enhance the waterfront area in the Point area. It will be developed into a multi-functional facility, providing for fishing, tourism and commercial related activities.


New security system implemented at airport

Security at the V.C. Bird International Airport will be improved to meet new international standards.

Aerodrome Superintendent, Errol George, has promised that security effectiveness will be achieved.

George recently met Consulting Engineers Partnership, a Dominica-based company, which has been contracted to deliver an upgraded security plan.

Three years ago security at the V.C. Bird International Airport was breached after an escaped prisoner, Trevor Jacobs, managed to jump the airport security fence and attempted to stow away in the wheel well of a BWIA airline. He was subsequently found dead in the holding space of the wheels of the aircraft.

George explained, “We are looking to upgrade the perimeter fence and screening mechanisms to achieve 100 per cent screening of checked luggage. This will come into effect by November 2005.


New equipment for Mount St. John

New CRASH carts have been acquired for the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre.

The new equipment has been temporarily placed at the Holberton Hospital to facilitate training programmes for medical staff.

The CRASH carts will be placed on all wards, and in the intensive care unit and the casualty department at Holberton. Each cart contains a Zoll defibrillator and pacemaker, a portable suction unit, airway management equipment, a portable oxygen bottle and emergency medications..

The Emergency medical Services (EMS) will also receive a new Zoll model CCT unit that has a number of capabilities including defibrillator and pacemaker, non-invasive blood pressure reading, oxygen saturation levels and full electro-cardiogram (EKG) with analysis and interpretation.

The emergency CCT unit will be connected to a cellular telephone. It will be able to transmit a patient’s results to a doctor on call so that prompt evaluation of the patient can be made. The doctor can then give instructions to the EMS personnel attending the patient.


Ministry of Agriculture to collect outstanding land payments

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a drive to collect outstanding payments from persons who have entered into financial contracts for lands with the Lands Division.

Chief Lands Officer George Duberry said that some people have defaulted on their land payment for years and have not contacted the Lands Division to explain their situation. He appealed to defaulters to visit his office to make proper arrangements to have arrears cleared. He explained that his office is willing to work with persons who need to pursue new financial arrangements including payment rescheduling.

The Division has had problems with defaulters over the past three years. While letters have been sent out to land holders in arrears, few have responded.

These people may now run the risk of having their lands confiscated and reallocated to others.


A local organisation takes government to court

The Antigua and Barbuda Independent Tourism Promotion Corporation (ABITPC) has filed a claim in the High Court against the Attorney-General of Antigua and Barbuda.

The complaint is against the government approval of a licence to the Dolphin Fantaseas Company for the capture of dolphins. The application was recently filed against the AG, as a representative of the government, for issuing the licence to John Mezzanotte, owner of Dolphin Fantaseas, a foreign-based company located at Marina Bay.

Prior to the legal action, ABITPC’s lawyer, John Fuller delivered an official letter to Prime Minister Lester Bird with regard to the permission granted by the government to capture 12 wild dolphins annually.

According to the ABITPC, there were no dolphin population studies and impact assessments done before the granting of the license. Public Relations Officer for ABITPC, Martha Watkins Gilkes, said, “this legal action is being taken not just because the poor dolphins are being captured but because also of the environmental damage this could do to our marine environment and also the possible damage it could do to our tourism product with massive protests from environmentalists across the world.”

Fuller said, “Under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty which our government has ratified, dolphins are listed or annexed to, which means that there can be international trade in them. But there are certain provisions which must take place before trade is made and those provisions include technical provisions requiring certificates of origin, certificates that they are not taken from stocks which are depleted or endangered or threatened, certificates for the importing country that will be certain standards regarding their holding.”

“Those certificates are very important and they are mandatory requirements under CITES for dolphins to be traded, and those mandatory requirements have not been met with regard to Dolphin Fantaseas's dolphins that have been imported in this country. They have not been met by the authorities in this country,” Fuller added.

He added “it's going to be an uphill battle, but my clients feel that they have to take this action."


Chairman of Antigua Electoral Commission approves voters’ list

The chairman of Antigua and Barbuda’s Electoral Commission, McClin Matthias, has given the country’s new voters’ list his signature of approval.

Matthias signed the electoral register for the 17 constituencies, declaring it an “historic moment” for the country.

The electoral list has been updated for the first time in 28 years following a re-registration exercise last July.

The list contains the names of 42,461 electors comprising Antiguans and Barbudan nationals and non-nationals resident in Antigua.

But the Commission said it discovered 100 persons whom it accused of deliberately attempting to register in the wrong constituency, and seven others who doubled registered. Legal action will be brought against these persons.


ALP prepares for General Elections

The ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) has begun preparations for the next general elections.

According to an ALP spokesman, the party began oiling its election machinery several weeks ago with a number of political meetings held by the Solidarity Platform, a preparatory group of party faithful.

The party's executive held a meeting at the Headquarters of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) to plan the way forward as the party prepares for the next general election.

In addressing the packed hall of party supporters and well wishers, the ALP's political leader, Lester B. Bird, called upon the supporters to get ready to do battle with the Opposition.

"Don't be afraid of them.... stand up to them..... we will win the next election," he told the cheering crowd.

A number of the party's new candidates including Arthur Nibbs from Barbuda also spoke at the meeting.


Antigua Opposition wants civil society to take action against Government
Baldwin spencer, Leader of the Opposition

Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer has called on civil society “to engage in collective action” to remove the Lester Bird administration from power in Antigua and Barbuda.

In one of his weekly radio addresses, Spencer, the leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) said that the Bird administration had brought the island into ridicule and disrepute, amid allegations of corruption.

“Civil society must now engage in collective action to strip Lester Bird of the power to use the resources of the State to perpetuate his personal power, which is the only thing that is important to him,” Spencer told his audience.

“It is time for civil society to stop the rape of every value that we cherish and every asset that our nation and our people can still claim as our own,” Spencer said.

“It would be Antigua and Barbuda's finest hour if all good and decent persons who live in these two islands would come together now to immediately remove the evil men who stalk and rule and rape this land,” he added.

Spencer said that for the “vast majority of the people of Antigua and Barbuda” the new decade of the 21st century “has brought little but disastrous new depths, rapidly diminishing prospects and increasingly devalued lives.”

He accused the government of “increasingly debasing, disgracing, and devaluing Antigua and Barbuda in the eyes of the world”, adding "even as we tell ourselves that they could do no worse, they shock us into the recognition that they have an unlimited propensity to be weapons of mass destruction with devastating effect on our economy and of the spirit and lives of the Antiguan and Barbudan people.”

The opposition politician took a swipe at the land swap deal involving the government and the Texas-based billionaire Allen Stanford, despite denials by the Ministers involved in the transaction that they had broken any law.

“Even a society accustomed to the excesses of the Bird dynasty is finding the latest Antigua Labour Party (ALP) scandal difficult to swallow. This time, the public outrage is not muted,” Spencer said.

“Only their immediate dismissal and the Prime Minister's resignation will save all three from having to face a court in this land to account for their ill-gotten gains in this matter,” he added.


R. Allen Stanford speaks out on bribery allegations
R. Allen Stanford during the press
briefing (background charts of his contributions
to the economy of Antigua and Barbuda and
non-charitable organisations)

“When the elected Leader of the Opposition accuses me of bribing two ministers of government for personal financial gains I must speak out. This has touched the very raw nerve of my body," said Texan billionaire R. Allen Stanford as he defended his decision to donate EC$100, 000 each to the constituency branches of ALP Parliamentarians Gaston Browne and Molwyn Joseph.

During a press briefing on the 27th November, Mr. Stanford said that normally he would not comment on such allegations, but considering the direction in which the accusations of bribery are coming from he felt he had to speak out.

“These people (the opposition), their sole purpose is to stir up conflict which cause further conflict which is not in the best interest of the country. I have never in my life bribed or done anything illegal or unethical in my business endeavours, much less so in Antigua, and I will not and have not associated myself with people of that character,” Mr. Stanford remarked.

Mr Stanford expressed confidence in the two ministers. “I have known these gentlemen for a very long time. Both of these gentlemen, I have great confidence in and I have the same trust and value that I hope they have in me. I respect their ability, their honesty, their work ethics and their commitment to the people of Antigua and Barbuda because they love this country just as I do,” he added.

The Texan financier said that the money that he personally gave to the two ministers (EC$100,000 each) has nothing to do with a bribe or a land swap. He said it had to do with simply helping the people of Antigua and Barbuda. The Opposition is accusing both ministers of accepting the money for negotiating a land swap in downtown St. John's between the government and Mr. Stanford. Both ministers have denied that they were negotiating any deal with the financier and have stated that the money is for constituency development and not personal gain.

It was also disclosed that the Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer held discussions with Mr. Stanford last summer and requested a sizeable contribution to support his quest for power. Mr. Stanford was unwilling to disclose the figure, but Planning Minister Gaston Browne estimated it to be US$2 million.

During the Press Conference Mr. Stanford surprised the audience by donating a further EC$200,000 towards the to Team City West and St. Mary's North Constituency Branches

He explained that while he was not angry, “This has touched the very raw nerve of my body, but I have very thick skin. I am going to continue supporting charitable causes for the better lives of the people of this country.”

Mr Stanford said that he is very proud of everything he has done in the country. “Where others have talked and made idle promises, I have delivered. I have invested in this country,” he said passionately.

Mr. Stanford also made public a list of the donations he has made in Antigua and Barbuda this year. These include contributions to the West Indies Cricket Board, the Carnival Development Committee, Her Majesty's Prison, the Christ the King High School, Sailing Week and the Commissioner of Police. Total donations for the year amount to EC$4,064,942.81.

He disclosed that for 2003 he has invested EC$249,642,000 in the economy of Antigua and Barbuda, including salaries to employees, projects under the Stanford Development Company, and payments to sub-contractors for Antigua-based projects.


Antigua PM upbeat over opinion poll

Prime Minister Lester Bird says he is "upbeat" over the results of the Ron Lester opinion poll which suggests that the ruling Antigua Labour Party will win at least 12 seats in the next general elections.

Mr. Bird scoffed at those who suggested that Ron Lester was mere fiction, noting that the pollster is well known and has conducted polls in the USA for Al Gore and the Democratic Party. He has done polls in Jamaica and he is now doing one in St. Kitts.

I remain very positive and upbeat about the poll because it points out clearly that the majority of the people in the country feel that the country is on an upswing because of the many projects we have done to lift the economy..."

The poll indicated that 50 percent of the country supports Mr. Bird while 31 percent support Minority Leader Baldwin Spencer. There were 19 percent who were listed as undecided.

Some 1,158 persons were quizzed in the poll.

Mr. Bird noted that, the poll was conducted back in July of this year and that the recent cash flow problem, which resulted in the late payment of salaries to public servants, may have affected the population negatively. As a result of this the party is considering commissioning another poll to look at the situation between July and now. He however, remains confident that the Antigua Labour Party will be returned to office at the next general election, which is constitutionally due in March 2004.


Continuous voter registration soon

On the 25th November, Chief Registration Officer, Lorna Simon, announced that the Electoral Commission will begin the process of continuous registration before the end of the year.

She added that the exercise will be completed to give "sufficient time for the completion of the process of claims and objections and appeals' so the Elections Office can accommodate everyone desirous of having their names on the electoral list.”


Antigua and Barbuda to strengthen ties with Colombia
Colombian delegation with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Antigua and Barbuda and Colombia are exploring ways to strengthen trade, investment, and employment opportunities between the two countries.

The Colombian Commissioner for Trade with the Caribbean, Mr Carlos Gonzalez, visited Antigua on the 27th and 28th November, for trade consultations.

During his visit, Mr Gonzalez met public sector officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Agriculture to ascertain the means by which trade between both countries can be facilitated.

Colombia is interested in exporting processed meats and meat products to Antigua and Barbuda. "Under the free trade agreement between Colombia and CARICOM, exports among the partners should encounter no barriers," Ambassador Murdoch, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained.

The Colombian negotiator also met officers from the Information Technology Centre and the Antigua Ports Authority. He visited both the Free Trade Zone and the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (ABIIT).

Mr. Gonzalez spent his second day with private sector persons discussing the possibilities of tying Colombian exports to certain businesses in Antigua.

"We are delighted to explore these possibilities," the Colombian Honorary Consul to Antigua, Mrs. Brito said after the visit, "and we will continue to work vigorously to bring Colombia closer to this great little Caribbean country."


Prime Minister Lester Bird presses France for visa waiver agreement

When the new French ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Bernard Venzo, arrived in Antigua on 1st December to present his credentials, Prime Minister Lester Bird called on France to conclude a visa waiver agreement with Antigua and Barbuda, under which nationals wishing to visit Guadeloupe for a short period would be exempt from the requirement to have a visa.

The Prime Minister indicated that such an agreement would open up people-to-people contact and would pave the way for closer relations between Antigua and Barbuda and Guadeloupe.

He also stated his hope that relations with France could move from the present static state of affairs to a more vibrant relationship.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to raise other issues in the bilateral relations between Antigua and Barbuda and France. These included maritime boundary delimitation and fisheries; outstanding debts owed to the French agency COFACE; and the position of the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which France is a leading member, on international tax issues.

Prime Minister Bird spent some time explaining his government's position on the OECD's harmful tax initiative, which was discussed at a meeting of the Global Tax Forum in Ottawa in October. He stated that Antigua and Barbuda was committed to a level playing field, where all countries could compete internationally without the disadvantages created by the exemptions granted to certain EU member states.

Ambassador Venzo stated that he recognized the merit of the Prime Mnister's call for a visa waiver agreement and that he would be taking the his message back to his Government. He called for balance in the relationship, and stated that it would be useful for a continuing dialogue to be established between both sides on various bilateral issues.

Ambassador Venzo is a veteran of the French Foreign Service, having served at various times in Egypt, Italy, Iraq and Tunisia.


High Court rules on Hilroy Humphreys case in Lower Court

The High Court has ordered the Magistrate’s Court not to proceed any further with the preliminary inquiry into alleged criminal charges against Hilroy Humphreys arising out of the Medical Benefits Scheme Commission of Inquiry.

On 25th November Humphreys appeared before a St. John's Magistrate and got a stay until 15 March, 2004.

His Attorney Sherfield Bowen told reporters “The High Court ordered the Magistrate Court not to proceed any further until the constitutional motion that was filed is heard in the High Court. The constitutional motion is to say it will be prejudicial to the interest of Humphreys if we were to allow the criminal proceedings to go through, because with respect to the Commission of Inquiry all the evidence we anticipate at the Criminal proceedings were all ventilated at the Commission of Inquiry and the entire population has been prejudiced."

"The Commission of Inquiry has even concluded that Humphreys is guilty of criminal conduct and so having this widespread publication of this guilt by television, by radio, by the Internet, we are arguing in the High Court we cannot find an impartial and unbiased jury in Antigua and Barbuda to listen to these same allegations again and to give him a fair trial."

The constitutional motion will be heard on 3 March, 2004 in the High Court.

"The Court ruled the prosecution has no such right and that we have the right to bring all the witnesses against Humphreys and the others (witnesses) to come to court to stand up and give their evidence where we can cross examine them," Bowen said.

He added the order of the court meant all the proceedings were in fact stayed, and no criminal prosecution would be allowed to continue until the resolution of the constitutional motion.


Curtain Bluff Hotel among World’s Top All-Inclusive Resorts
Curtain Bluff Hotel

Antigua and Barbuda’s Curtain Bluff Hotel has been listed among the two best all-inclusive resorts in the world.

The International Magazine, Forbes Business, in its October 16 edition listed Curtain Bluff Resort and Wakaya Club in Fiji as the most comprehensive all-inclusive resorts where all meals, wine and water sports are included in their vacation packages.

Forbes Business further revealed that booking a stay at Curtain Bluff removes much of the hassle associated with a vacation, because guests know exactly what they will be paying for.

Curtain Bluff is located on the southern tip of Antigua sprawled on two beaches. It has 73 rooms decorated in standard Caribbean mode – tiled floors and wicker furniture.

Everything from wine to cigars is included in the price, as well as water-skiing, scuba and snorkelling trips with staff providing instructions.


Caribbean Star scores major successes at World Travel Market

Award-winning Caribbean Star Airlines scored major successes at the recently concluded World Travel Market in London.

The airline's team, headed by Chief Executive Officer and President Paul Moreira, held discussions with leading tour operators in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.

The team included Edward Gilkes, General Manager of Commercial Operations, Sandra Scotland, Director of Marketing and Public relations, and Marcia Hall, Senior Flight Attendant.

Gilkes said the talks with tour operators from Italy, and Israel and several airlines were very positive. He said that Portuguese airline Air Luxor, which earlier this year operated several flights into Antigua, is considering increasing its charters to the Caribbean next year.

The team also met marketing representatives of London-based Virgin Holidays, who are interested in promoting the Caribbean.

Caribbean Star is already used as a feeder airline out of Antigua to other Caribbean destinations for passengers flying out of London on Virgin Atlantic.

The airline won “Best Inter Island Airline” award at the London Show.


Sandals unveils US$28M expansion plan

On 30th October, Chairman of Sandals Antigua Resort and Spa, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, unveiled a US$28 million expansion programme to a gathering which included Prime Minister Lester Bird, Deputy Prime Minister Robin Yearwood, Tourism Minister Molwyn Joseph, Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer, UPP's Shadow Minister of Tourism Senator Harold Lovell, travel agents, foreign press and the local media.

In his address Mr Stewart said "I think we have a really good democracy in Antigua and Barbuda. We are particularly happy that the government has been reviewing its policies and making it more investor-friendly.

"If tourism is really the engine of growth for the Caribbean.... then the various countries that make up the Caribbean, if they don’t really get smart and start doing things such as encouraging investors and in turn encourage growth, which in turn encourages employment and opportunity for its citizens, then we are going to be behind the eight ball," Stewart said.

Whilst acknowledging the welcome competition from the cruise ships, Stewart noted emphatically that "at the end of the day it will be your hotels that are going to provide revenue for the country, that are going to employ the people, that are going to offer the opportunities for purchasing the goods and services.”

He announced Sandals’ hope to break ground early in 2004. The expansion will involve a Mediterranean Village with 114 rooms including 90 junior suites, 10 executive suites and 14 plunge pool suites as well as a 15,000 square foot pool complete with the Sandals signature swim up pool bar and Jacuzzi.

A new Italian restaurant will also be constructed and a brand new Cricketers pub in addition to retail space for a craft shop, gift store and jewellery store.


Antigua beach voted No. 1 in the Caribbean
Dickensonbay Beach

Dickenson Bay in Antigua has been rated the best beach in the Caribbean by the Sunday Mirror Newspaper in the United Kingdom.
On the day before the world’s largest tourism exhibition in London opened in London today, the Sunday Mirror, with a readership of tens of millions of people, ranked Dickenson Bay in Antigua with five stars as against four and three stars from beaches in Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and the Dominican Republic.

The newspaper ranked Dickenson Bay as number one, against Negril in Jamaica, Reduit in St Lucia, Playa Dorada in the Dominican Republic and Carlisle Bay in Barbados.

Experts from the University of Glamorgan were commissioned by the newspaper who asked 1,000 Britons what they wanted for a seaside holiday. The Sunday Mirror reported, “They said the beach should be safe, have dramatic scenery, no huge tides, no litter and clear sparkling water”.

According to the Sunday Mirror report, the newspaper then added some criteria of its own. These included: family-friendly beach bars, lots of shade and safe water sports.

On this basis, the Newspaper combed the Caribbean and came up with five top Caribbean beaches. They then rated Dickenson Bay in Antigua as the best giving it five stars.

Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to London, Sir Ronald Sanders, commented, “This is great news for Antigua as World Travel Market opens in London today with literally thousands of travel agents from all over Europe in attendance. The newspaper rating will certainly boost interest in Antigua and Barbuda as a desirable destination.”

The Antigua office in London has run a successful advertising campaign on Jazz FM Radio in London and the South-East of England as well as in selected newspapers.

“We ran the campaign in the run-up to the World Travel Market to imprint Antigua on the minds of the millions of potential tourists who will visit the Exhibition. The Sunday Mirror has topped this off nicely”, Sir Ronald said.

Over this winter period there will be 16 flights per week into Antigua directly from London brining over 3,500 tourists every week. This is the greatest number of direct flights into Antigua from any country in the history of the Island’s tourism.


St. James' Club voted best family hotel 2003
St James club

St. James' Club situated at Mamora Bay has been voted as the best Family Hotel 2003 by Virgin Holidays.

General Manager Saskya Carrusco credits this latest achievement largely to the efforts of her staff.

"On 9 September, Virgin Holidays held a party for all their clients and suppliers at the World Travel Market in London and they were handing out prizes for all the properties that are in their catalogue and we were awarded this prize as their Best Family Resort 2003 worldwide," Carrusco said.


Amendments to Tourism Development Corporation Act approved
Tourism Minister Molwyn Joseph

A company to promote and seek future investments for Antigua and Barbuda’s vital tourism industry will soon become operational after amendments to refine the Tourism Development Corporation Act were approved by the House of Representatives on 1st December.

The TDC, which was first passed in 1997 will become “the vehicle to take tourism into the future”, said Tourism Minister, Molwyn Joseph, who piloted the amendments in Parliament.

It will be run by a board comprising three members from the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association (AH&TA) and one person each appointed by the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce and Industry, taxi drivers, vendors, the airlines associations and the Ministry of Tourism, plus two individuals with experience in the sector.

An executive officer, along with staff, will manage the day to day affairs of the TDC, which will be funded by the two per cent guest levy and other sources of revenue in which the private sector is expected to play a role.

The amendments to the substantive Bill came out of a symposium involving tourism industry stakeholders held earlier this year.

“We are now fulfilling the commitment that was made by the government after the conclusion of the consultations,” Joseph said.

He said the governments’ US$22 million investment in the dredging and expansion of the Heritage Quay pier has proven to be correct, because the country is now considered a marquee destination by cruise liners.

He said the upcoming winter season would bring an increase in aircraft traffic from London with British Airways landing seven to ten flights weekly; Virgin Atlantic three; and BWIA two; while Air Jamaica will have four non-stop flights from New York.

“This increase in business is a result of the hard work and dedication of the government,” said Joseph while praising the effort of the High Commission in London and the New York Tourist Office.

He said the airport expansion project is expected to begin within 45 days, to accommodate the influx of passengers who will be going to Antigua in the near future.

The minister said the recently commissioned Hospitality Training Institute at Dutchman’s Bay will assist with the training of taxi drivers and vendors, who he said have an integral role to play as ambassadors.
Joseph said a resource centre for small hotel operators would also be set up at the Institute.


New Antiguan rums the focus at the Premier Trade show

Antiguan rums were in the spotlight yesterday as Premier Beverages hosted its second trade show at the Rex Halcyon Cove Hotel on 5th November.

Representatives of Premier Beverages Limited and Antigua Distillery Limited launched several new products and initiatives, including the new English Harbour five -year old.

"This is one of the new upgrades to our rum line," Managing Director Premier Beverages Limited, Anthony Bento said. "We are very excited about this product. It has been in existence for two years primarily in international markets."

Sales and Marketing Manager of Antigua Distillery Limited, Sharon Green also announced the company's alliances with YAO Ice Cream and Dolcie's Antigua Rum Cake. YAO uses Cavalier Rum in their new rum and raisin ice cream, while the rum cake is made with Cavalier Rum.

In addition to successfully moving into the Canadian and Italian markets and several of their rum products receiving awards at the 2002 International Rum Festival, Bento said the company was one of the few companies in Antigua and Barbuda that had achieved Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Certification.

"This brings us to a high international standard, which will be required in years to come if we are going to be export ready," he said.

The Antigua and Barbuda Stall at the Commonwealth Fair -
selling rum punch, coconut fudge, fried plantain, saltfish balls, Dunlabs guava jelly, pineapple jam and pepper sauce, English Harbour Rum, handmade dolls, pottery and more.


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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