Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1427)

JetBlue Passenger Could Face 10-Years Imprisonment for Bomb Scare Threat

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – A U.S. passenger travelling on a JetBlue flight (#1008) out of the Dominican Republic bound for New York could face imprisonment of 10-years for threatening to set off a bomb on the flight.

The incident occurred last Thursday during an evening scheduled flight to the Big Apple from the Caribbean island.  JetBlue was forced to return to the Dominican Republic after one-hour into its flight.

The man claimed to be a terrorist and demanded that the plane return to the Dominican Republic.

The aircraft after it had landed back at Las Americas Airport was directed to the North ramp of the runway where the aircraft was boarded by authorities and the individual who made the bomb threat was taken away in handcuffs according to reports out of the Dominican Republic.  Passengers were then allowed to deplane and were taken by busses to the terminal building where they underwent security checks.

The passenger has been identified by initials F.B.D., a Dominican American.



Second Tropical Storm of the Season could Form Between May 20-31

MIAMI/SINT MAARTEN – The second tropical storm of the season could form between May 20 and 31st, according to Crown Weather.  The storm could develop either in the central or southern Caribbean or just off the east coast of Florida.

The weather observations made by Crown Weather are based on an analysis of computer forecast models which shows signs that there could be a large increase in thunderstorm activity and disturbed weather across parts of the central and south western Caribbean starting around Tuesday, 19 May and Wednesday, 20 May.

Crown Weather adds that the GFS model is the one that has been consistent in forecasting possible storm development just south west of Jamaica towards the end of the week.

The GFS was the first weather guidance model to forecast the formation of Tropical Storm Ana, the pre-seasons first 2015 named Atlantic Hurricane storm system, but this model as Crown Weather also points out, has forecasted phantom storms in the past that never mounted to anything.

Crown Weather in conclusion says there is about a five to 10 per cent chance for tropical development during the period May 20-31.



First International Tourism Expo in the Caribbean currently taking place in San Juan

PUERTO RICO/SINT MAARTEN – The International Tourism Expo (Expo de Turismo Internacional (ETI), the first international tourism expo in the Caribbean, kicked off on Wednesday, 13 May.  It is designed to showcase the beauty, sports, nature, adventure, and gastronomy experiences available throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

The four-day event has attracted tourism industry officials from across the globe.  The expo which concludes on Saturday entails group meetings, social and cultural events, field trips, workshops, destination trainings, keynote addresses and more.  The Exhibit Hall will be open for two days to travel trade and one day to consumers.

Input in preparing for ETI was received from local and regional organizations such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association. 

The expectation is that ETI will become part of the regional annual calendar of events.

ETI is taking place in the Puerto Rico Convention Center.



Sint Maarten Travelers to Dominica and St. Vincent: LIAT Advises Customers to Expect Increased Flight Cancellations

CARIBBEAN/SINT MAARTEN – For those traveling out of Sint Maarten to the destinations of Dominica and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, please be aware of possible flight cancellations. 

LIAT Airline has advised its customers that due to expected high winds in the coming months, there may be an increase in flight cancellations.

Airlines have to follow certain requirements with respect to landing conditions at certain destinations.  The two islands affected will be St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica.

Aircraft are not permitted to take off or land when winds reach a certain level and in the interest of safety flights will be cancelled.



Nepal: International community agency stresses urgent funding needs to get food to earthquake victims

INTERNATIONAL – Two weeks after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal¸ the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that “severe logistical challenges” are getting in the way of aid reaching hundreds of thousands of survivors in some of the country’s hardest-hit areas.

“We in no way want a lack of resources to force us to limit the assistance we’re providing,” Richard Ragan, who is coordinating WFP’s relief operation,saidfrom Kathmandu.

“The people of Nepal are resilient, but we can’t expect families to be living in the rubble of their homes, with little food, no roof over their head and the monsoons coming,” he said.

After the initial focus in the relief effort on search and rescue, food has become an increasingly urgent need, WFP said. Thus far, the Programme has distributed food for 300,000 people and is bringing in more helicopters and engaging multiple fleets of small trucks to get supplies to hard-hit rural areas. It is also opening a land route from India to take pressure off Kathmandu airport.

But WFP’s emergency operations are only four per cent funded, with much of the food distributions and common services provided to date enabled by internal resources which are reaching their limit.

Funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments, companies and private individuals, WFP hasappealedfor $116.5 million to provide food for 1.4 million people over the next three months.

Many of those affected in the most remote rural areas are subsistence farmers who lost the crops that were harvested just before the quake hit, WFP said. Families urgently need food to carry them over until the next harvest while they rebuild their lost livelihoods. It is vital that the response from the international community matches the immense needs of the people of Nepal.

On 25 April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands while limiting access to food and leaving some 3.5 million in need of food assistance. An estimated 8 million people across the country's Western and Central Regions are affected by the disaster, including its largest cities, Kathmandu and Pokhara.


Somalia remains one of the largest, most complex emergencies, says country’s International Community relief coordinator

INTERNATIONAL – In New York to update Member States and partners on the humanitarian and development situation in Somalia, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia said the “multi-faceted” challenge presented by Somalia is different to that posed in other countries.

“We are dealing with a country putting things together again,” said Philippe Lazzarini. “We have a post-conflict situation but we also have a conflict existing. We have military operations but we also have different stages of recovery and development.”

That meant that aid delivery remained incredibly dangerous, and Mr. Lazzerini had described to UN Member States the challenges of delivering humanitarian assistance, as highlighted by the attack three weeks earlier in northern Somalia on UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) workers, where four lost their lives and five were wounded.

“I think it’s an understatement to say that Somalia remains one of the largest and most complex emergencies in the world,” he said, pointing to figures, such as the fact that three million people need humanitarian assistance or livelihood support, among whom 740,000 are unable to meet food needs, as well as 200,000 children who are severely malnourished.

He stressed the vulnerability of the one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, whose vulnerability made them “pariahs among pariahs” as they continued to live in appalling conditions.

Mr. Lazzerini underlined Somalia’s susceptibility to natural disasters and food insecurity and said it was still too early to say whether the harvest would be sufficient or not.

The country also faced challenges due to a money transfer operator ceasing operations there and he pointed out that 40 per cent of Somalia’s population is dependent on remittances. He said they accounted for between $1.3 and $1.5 billion of annual gross domestic product (GDP) and amounted to twice the value of the international humanitarian effort.

Mr. Lazzerini also pointed to several achievements including the arresting of a polio outbreak. After a large number of cases was found, there followed “sustained mobilization of the aid community” and the vaccination of 4 million people to put an end to the outbreak. While the country was not polio free, there had been no new cases since August 2014.

Also in health sector, he noted a drop in prevalence of malaria, which had been reduced from 20 per cent to less than two per cent. Vaccination campaigns had also allowed Somalia’s livestock to recover to an extent that exports had re-started, generating profits of $350 million for Somali farmers.

He called on the international community to address the root causes of the problems in Somalia, pointing out that the international activity in Somalia had been humanitarian focused for 25 years.

“Humanitarian assistance is a band aid that allows us only to keep people alive,” said Mr. Lazzerini, calling for a durable solution for IDPs.


Koenders to visit Cuba on Thursday May 7. Acknowledges proximity of Caribbean part of Kingdom to Cuba

CARIBBEAN – Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has made arrangements with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla to pay a working visit to Cuba on 7 May. Mr Rodríguez Parrilla recently visited the Netherlands. ‘Since Cuba is now making approaches to the Netherlands, it is important to respond and to maintain the dialogue,’ Mr Koenders said. Mr Rodríguez Parrilla is the first-ever Cuban foreign minister to visit the Netherlands.

The topics discussed by Mr Koenders and Mr Rodríguez Parrilla included relations between the Netherlands and Cuba. The two countries previously signed an agreement expressing a joint interest in working together more closely. They intend to strengthen ties in the areas of trade, agriculture, water management, biotechnology, regional and multilateral cooperation, human rights, and tools for improving human rights. The Netherlands is currently training Cuban diplomats and Feyenoord football clinics are taking place in Cuba. There is also a focus on greater cooperation in education. Mr Koenders described these activities as ‘tremendous steps’.

‘It is important for Cuba and the Netherlands to maintain good political and economic relations’, the minister said. ‘After all, Cuba is one of our Caribbean neighbours. In view of its location close to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, we have many shared interests.’ Mr Koenders also believes that recent international developments are creating new opportunities for investment, particularly for the Dutch business community. With this in mind, the Netherlands is planning to send a delegation to Cuba in early 2016. ‘We would like to see greater economic cooperation with Cuba’ said Mr Koenders. ‘The Netherlands is one of its main European trade partners and also one of its top export destinations.’

Mr Koenders emphasised that further reforms are not only significant in terms of Cuba’s relationship with the Netherlands but also in regard to its cooperation with the European Union. ‘Effective cooperation is in everyone’s interest, and that requires efforts on both sides,’ the minister commented. A new EU-Cuba agreement has been under negotiation since April 2014.

Efforts are being made to find areas in which the EU and Cuba can work together, for instance development cooperation and trade. Mr Koenders said, ‘I welcome the announcement this week that Cuba and the EU are resuming their political dialogue and that a new structured dialogue on human rights will start in June.’ The Netherlands has played an important leading role in initiating this process and will continue to press for closer cooperation between the EU and Cuba.


Curacao Rejects Economic Permit for AVA Airways Curacao

WILLEMSTAD — With astonishment AVA Airways Curaçao took notice of an announcement made by the Interim Minister of Traffic, Transportation and Urban Planning, Dr. Jose Jardim. The Minister said during a televised interview that the AVA’s economic permit was rejected, because the airline did not have all the necessary documents for this permit.

On December 30, 2013, AVA Airways officially requested its economic permit according to the laws of the country. On May 22, 2014, AVA received a letter from the Director of the Curaçao Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA), Oscar Derby indicated that they have received the letter and that AVA’s request is being processed.

In August of that same year, CCAA and its Director, indicated that they have requested the assistance of the Government Accountants Bureau (SOAB) to do a research on the business plan presented by AVA in December 2013. Derby also informed the President of the Supervisory Board, Giovanni Atalita that it’s the best business plan he has ever seen.

On November 27, 2014, a delegation representing the airline met with the CCAA and also the SOAB. On this occasion, the Chairman of the airline, Olivier Arrindell gave a detailed explanation of the business plan. Mr. Derby then proceeded to send the minutes of the meeting indicated that all points in the business plan were closed.

All points were closed, except for one, which is not required by law. AVA had to indicate who the investors are. “It is important to explain that the law only has four requirements for an economic permit. These are: 1. The business plan has to be beneficial for Curaçao. 2. The majority of the shareholders must have the Dutch citizenship. 3. The majority of the Directors must have the Dutch citizenship and registered in Curaçao. 4. The company must demonstrate that it has a lease agreement for aircrafts that it will operate,” said the Chairman of the airline.

Despite the fact that the law does not talk about the company’s investors, on January 17, 2015, former Minister Earl Balborda received a letter in which the investors informed the government of their intentions to invest 100% in the AVA Curaçao project.

This is contrary to what AVA heard on television, when Minister Jardim announced that the airline’s permit was rejected because they did not meet that requirement.

“AVA will not lose its focus. AVA is a tremendous project, which will be very beneficial for Curaçao. AVA’s competition will not be InselAir, but other companies in the region such as Copa Airlines from Panama,” Arrindell stated. (Curacao Chronicle)


2,500 Carnival passengers stranded in storm overnight in 30-foot seas

SINT MAARTEN/AUSTRALIA - Passengers on the Carnival Spirit were forced to wait out a storm on board the ship as it was unsafe for it to attempt to dock at Sydney Harbour, Australia due to strong winds and high seas last night.

Harbour Master Philip Holliday said he was forced to close the port and wait for the winds to die down, which meant leaving the Carnival Spirit to spend an extra night at sea in the heavy storm.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the 2,500 passengers on-board had to endure rolling waves of more than 10 meters and when the ship finally docked this morning, a day later than planned, one woman told waiting reporters: "I thought I was going to die last night".

Severe storms have been battering New South Wales for three days, cutting off power supplies to 200,000. Flights to and from Sydney airport have also been affect, with some international flights diverted.

Carnival Spirit was returning from a 12-night cruise to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.  Passengers travelling on the next cruise will embark later today for a 19:00 departure. (TravelMole)


ON THE RUN: Humanitarian agencies mobilize assistance amid renewed fighting in Iraq

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations' humanitarian agencies are rushing support to thousands of Iraqis fleeing a flare-up in hostilities throughout the country's Anbar Governate, the Organization confirmed.

In a press release issued earlier this morning, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that more than 90,000 people were fleeing the city of Ramadi and surrounding areas and were moving, on foot, towards Khaldiya, Ameriya al Faullujah and Baghdad.

“Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing-- food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” explained Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations in Iraq.

“Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking,” Ms. Grande continued. “We are very worried about people's safety; the situation is dramatic and only urgent action can save lives.”

According to OCHA, the UN's humanitarian agencies have moved “quickly” to provide assistance for those in need.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing immediate response rations, or IRRs, sufficient for three days to over 41,000 people in Ramadi and over 8,000 newly displaced in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has distributed core relief item kits to approximately 1,000 families in Ameriya al Faullujah and Baghdad and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is similarly distributing rapid response mechanism kits to cover the immediate needs of 85,000 people.

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is assisting Iraq's Ministry of Health with front-line services.

Amid ongoing fighting between Iraqi Government forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and continuing sectarian tensions across society, the Middle Eastern country is facing a period of immense peace and security challenges.

OCHA reported that at least 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced since January 2014, including 400,000 from Anbar Governate alone, making the Iraq crisis one of the most complex humanitarian emergencies in the world today.

Funding shortfalls, however, have added to the complexity of the humanitarian response. The UN has observed that in the next few months 60 per cent of programmes supported by the Organization's humanitarian partners are slated to be curtailed or shut-down unless funding is received.

“We are doing what we can to help but the humanitarian operation in Iraq is severely underfunded,” Ms. Grande warned.

“We're asking everyone who can, to help contribute financially to the operation.”

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