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CJ denies extra time, DPP has to present SIPT succession plan by March 1 or trial is over

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#TurksandCaicos, February 16, 2021 – The historic nature of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team trial has made advancing in the major case one for deep consideration, in light of the sudden passing of Justice Paul Harrison there is a dilemma about how the seven-year-old trial will progress as Harrison, was both judge and jury.

Lead prosecutor in the SIPT case, Andrew Mitchell, QC appeared in person at the sitting Monday morning which was held at the SIPT courtroom in Providenciales.

Mitchell, to onlookers in the court and those tuned in via video link, seemed to struggle with a convincing reason why he and the Director of Public Prosecutions should be given more time to convey the future of the trial. 

The session ended with the Chief Justice firmly committing the Prosecution to a 14-day re-appearance when the succession plan will either be presented or the case will be struck.

Bail for the eight defendants was also extended.

Chief Justice Mabel Agyeman now presides over the controversial government corruption matter and rejected the request for more time for the DPP to establish the way forward in the Crown vs Michael Misick and others.

Mitchell tried to secure 21-days in order for Eugene Otuonye, QC, Director of the Public Prosecutions Office to engineer the logistics for continuity of the trial, which is notoriously known as the most high profile, high cost trial in TCI history.

Expenditure over the years – in a conservative estimate –  have come in at well over a $110 million dollars. The judicial process which brought criminal and civil charges against as many as 11 individuals, but is now dwindled to eight islanders, has long worn out its local welcome.

Residents, who in 2008 were eager to have Michael Misick and his so called “cronies” face justice, are now despondent. 

The trial is seen by many as nothing more than a wasted effort which has made lawyers in the case filthy rich; and proven a travesty of justice with the TCI public purse, ravaged by the bills for luxury housing, high cost security, a renovation for a special courthouse and expensive attorney fees, including those for the defense teams.

The Special Investigation and Prosecution Team trial has been stymied by a string of pre-trial legal arguments spanning 2014 through to 2016.

Helen Garlick, the original lead prosecutor hired in 2009 vacated the post in 2017.

The proceedings were further waylaid by natural disasters including hurricanes Irma and Maria and most recently the Coronavirus Pandemic; which froze activity at the tailor-made court room for the bulk of 2020.

Proceedings reconvened in January 2021 with a plea deal approved for Lillian Boyce; now a freed defendant who is ordered by the court to pay a one million dollar fine in a suspended sentence. Some $700k was delivered up front.

It has been one week since the death of the retired president of the Jamaica Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Harrison, who had also come under fire in the early days of the process. 

Harrison’s age and stamina were called into question by the embattled former premier Michael Misick.  

Nonetheless, the Justice remained on after being hired in 2014 to preside over the trial which would for the first time in Turks and Caicos function without a jury.

The celebrated Paul Harrison passed away in his native Jamaica on Sunday February 7, 2021 after a short bout with illness and at the age of 83. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has the constitutional duty to determine if and how the matter will proceed.

The Chief Justice has made it clear however that if there is no determination by the DPP by March 1, 2021 when court is scheduled to reconvene; she is prepared to strike the matter which would end the trial.

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Omicron results in 267,000 case record for USA, eclipsing even Delta

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#USA, December 31, 2021 – The US has broken its record for most daily coronavirus cases with a massive 267,000 cases recorded on Tuesday. The information was courtesy of data prepared by the New York Times about infection rates.

The Omicron variant now accounts for more than half of the cases in the country.

Information the Times released said, “The country is averaging more than 260,000 new cases a day, surpassing the peak levels from last winter. Infection rates are especially high in parts of the Northeast and Midwest. Though breakthrough infections are common with Omicron, scientists say vaccinated people, especially those who have received booster shots, have protection against severe cases and death.”

Despite the steep increase there is a silver lining. The same data that shows the increase also shows that hospitalizations and deaths remain at a steady rate and that rate is much lower than variants like Delta.

Amidst the drastic increase the Centers for Disease Control has slashed its recommendations for quarantine days in half, after which a COVID patient may leave quarantine without testing. There has been much controversy surrounding the issue with accusations of capitalism being slung toward the entity.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the decision saying, “What we do know is about 85 percent to 90 percent of viral transmission happens in those first five days, which is why we really want people to stay home during that period of time.”

She said masks should be worn for five days after quarantine to prevent the final 10 per cent to 15 per cent of possible transmission.

Walensky did not explain the efficiency of a 10 quarantine vs the new five day quarantine or say if this was expected to lead to an uptick in cases.

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Deadly Salad Mix Recall in US; TCI seems unaffected

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#December 24, 2021 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating an outbreak related to packaged salads that have killed about three people, and 22 have been hospitalised due to fears over Listeria infection.

As a result, Fresh Express has recalled salad products from approximately 19 states on Monday.

Recalls were made in Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Indiana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Massachusetts.

The brands recalled are Fresh Express, Bowl & Basket, Giant Eagle, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, O Organics, Signature Farms, Simply Nature, Weis Fresh from the Field, and Wellsley Farms Organic.

The CDC advised that anyone who has purchased the recalled items should discard them and properly sanitise their refrigerators to avoid contracting the associated bacteria called listeria.

Listeria may cause headaches, stiff neck, confusion, and fever.

Local grocer, Sunny Foods confirmed that the recall does not impact his store and it may be the same for others in country.

The TCI Government had not replied up to news time to a query about whether the recall affects this market.

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TC Reef Fund gives a Financial & Projects Report

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, December 7, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, the local environmental non-profit, announced a successful fiscal year.  Approximately $114,058 dollars was raised in 2021. The expenses of the organization, however, outweighed the revenues. For the fiscal year, it was about $128,984 dollars.

The largest source of revenue came from donations designated for specific projects. Nearly half of the fiscal year’s revenue came from individual donations and memberships.  Don Stark, Chairman of the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, said the ongoing success of fund-raising contributed to hiring their first full-time Executive Director in 2021, Mrs. Alizée Zimmermann.

“I have been very happy to become a major part of the TCRF as the Executive Director,” said Alizée Zimmermann. “TCRF has accomplished so much since 2010 and I hope that we will continue to be a leader in environmental advocacy not only in the TCI, but also regionally. We are already considered a regional leader in the battle with SCTLD. I am also happy to say that in 2021 we have expanded our volunteer network to over 100 residents who donate their time to assist TCRF with our various projects.  We could not accomplish the things we do without the support we receive from these generous volunteers.”

Since 2010, when the organization was founded, $1.4 million dollars have been raised without the government’s contribution.  About $924,000, which is, 67 per cent of the money, has been used to support environmental projects in the TCI.

Its largest project, which started in 2012, is installing and maintaining dive and snorkel boat moorings. Stark said the project’s cost is now at 287 thousand dollars.

“That’s $287,000 that TCRF has essentially donated to the TCIG, since once we install a mooring in a marine park, it becomes Government property,” said Stark.

He added that over $43, 000 had been invested in education and outreach programs.

Alizée Zimmermann, Executive Director of the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund, said they expanded their volunteer network to over 100 residents.

The Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease project, which dominated the expenses, came to almost $37,000. Also, moorings which were over $24,000 accounted for a large part of the project expense.

The third-largest project expense was the Smith’s Reef Rehabilitation and Improvements project. It was about $10,585 dollars for the year.

 

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