Caribbean News in Brief — November 11-09

NEW PM

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti: The nation’s former Planning and External Cooperation Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, will be sworn in as prime minister this week.

Bellerive, who will fill the post made vacant by the firing of Michèle Pierre-Louis last month, is expected to form a Cabinet and submit his government plan for formal approval by Parliament this week as well.

The lower House of Parliament – the Chamber of Deputies — ratified Bellerive last Saturday in a 52-2 vote, a day after the Senate gave him its unanimous approval.

Bellerive, 51, has served in several government positions over the past 20 years.

The Senate voted out Pierre-Louis over her failure to promote economic recovery on the heels of four storms last year, which devastated the already impoverished nation.

CUTTING JOBS

Kingston, Jamaica: A special team is preparing to cut jobs and rationalize the public service.

“We have established a unit which will go into operation on November 16, next Monday,” Prime Minister Bruce Golding said.

Golding said the permanent secretary in his office, Patricia Sinclair-McCalla, would give up her position to take up the post of chief executive officer of the eight-member unit.

Under the rationalization plan, government jobs will be lost and the public sector will be modernized to improve efficiency.

The effort will see some of the existing 200 government departments merged and others closed.

Golding said the goal of the rationalization plan is to ease the burden on the nation’s budget so that borrowing is reduced.

APOLOGY

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued an apology to Saudi Arabia over the search and interrogation of a Saudi diplomat.

The apology came after complaints from the Muslim community that Dr. Fawaz Abdul Rahaman Al Shabili had been strip searched and extensively questioned by police last week during a trip to the Caribbean nation.

Imtiaz Mohammed, chairman of the Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago organization, said Al Shabili came to the country to process visas for local Muslims hoping to take the annual Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. But while at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the capital, police went and interrogated him and forced him to partially strip.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that the diplomat was deployed by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to travel to Trinidad and Tobago for the express purpose of issuing Hajj visas for the 2009 season.

Mohammed said the apology has helped to maintain good relations between the two countries.

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