Caribbean News in Brief as of May 20-09

OPERATIONS HALTED

Kingston, Jamaica: The nation’s largest bauxite and alumina producer, Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART), has suspended its operations for at least the next year, leaving 900 people out of work.

The suspension, which took effect last Friday, was made in response to reduced demand for alumina due to the global financial crisis.

“I want to emphasize that this is a temporary closure, a temporary situation,” company spokesman Lance Neita said, adding that there would be a skeleton staff at the plant.

“We will have a team of employees there until the end of May when they will be replaced by another team to carry on the maintenance work during the temporary closure.”

ALPART is owned by Russia’s UC Rusal and Norwegian aluminum and renewable energy company, Norsk Hydro.

TOURISM BOOST

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: The President of the Dominican Republic has confirmed that the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico has given the tourism sector in his country a boost.

During a visit to Spain, President Leonel Fernandez said tourists who were heading to Mexico have been diverted to the Dominican Republic.

He said that despite the global economic crisis, the number of tourists visiting the Dominican Republic so far this year has been higher than during the same time in 2008.

The country received 3.9 million foreign tourists in 2008 and 1.1 million during the first three months of this year, according to figures from the nation’s central bank.

CLINTON APPOINTED

New York, USA: Former United States president, Bill Clinton, has been named the new United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti.

Clinton will work to help the country rebuild from last year’s four tropical storms, which claimed the lives of nearly 800 people and caused $1 billion in damage.

Clinton’s appointment comes two months after he visited Haiti with UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

The trip triggered a global fundraising effort that raised more than $300 million for the country’s rebuilding effort.

HEARING POSTPONED

Kingston, Jamaica: A court has postponed the hearing of charges against a man accused of trying to hijack a Canadian jetliner.

The case was postponed to June 3, because case preparations were not complete.

Stephen Fray, 21, faces up to two dozen charges, including robbery and assault, over the April 19 hostage standoff aboard a CanJet Airlines plane at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

The hijacking ended when police stormed the airliner and captured the gunman without firing a shot.

Fray will remain in police custody.

MINISTERS REBUFFED

Cockburn Town, Turks and Caicos Islands: The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands has been told that there is little chance that Britain will change its mind about restoring direct rule.

Premier Galmo Williams met in London on Monday with the British minister for overseas territories, Gillian Merron, to try to stall the planned suspension of the TCI constitution.

Williams argued that the government on Grand Turk had begun to undertake ethics reforms in the light of the findings of a commission of inquiry that there were clear signs of corruption in the islands.

However, in a release, the TCI government quoted Merron as expressing grave reservations about halting the suspension process.

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