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Caribbean Round-Up

Barbados

Barbados-based low cost carrier REDjet has canceled more than 50 flights until March amid reports of financial problems.

But the airline says it is on budget and on track to deliver new routes and services.

The airline’s customer service manager Roy Norville said that 56 flights would be canceled “for commercial reasons.”

The affected flights included stops to Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados.

REDjet CEO Ian Burns said the reasons for the cancellations were to accommodate three new routes to be launched later this year and also to improve flight times for customers. He said the changes will take place from March 1 and will have increased capacity, better flight times and frequency.

Ralph “Bizzy” Williams, the company’s largest investor, had accused the Barbados government of sabotaging the airline’s progress through excessive delays and Bds $8 million, which was invested for operating expenses in the initial months of the business had to be used elsewhere.

Dominica

High Court Judge Gertel Thom recently ruled that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Education Minister Petter Saint Jean were qualified to contest the 2009 general elections.

The judge handed down her ruling in the case brought against Prime Minister Skerrit and his Education Minister Saint Jean by the leader of the United Workers Party (UWP), Ron Greene and Maynard Joseph.

The two opposition politicians had asked the court to declare that both Skerrit and Jean were illegally nominated to contest the December 2009 general election because they held dual citizenship at the time.

Grenada

A Grenadian attorney has alleged there has been a gradual increase in police brutality in the Spice Island in recent times.

While stopping short of saying the pattern has developed since the elevation of William Thompson as commissioner of police last August, Derick Sylvester praised Thompson’s predecessor James Clarkson, whom he said sought to do his best in restricting or limiting police officers from beating civilians in their custody.

“In recent times we have seen the shooting death of an alleged mentally incapacitated man, then we have seen riot gear being used against peaceful demonstrators and now we see the death of a young man. So what I’m seeing here is a gradual increase in police brutality,” he said.

Addressing the media on the alleged beating of Grenadian-born Canadian resident Oscar Peter Bartholomew at the hands of police officers attached to the St. David’s Police Station on Boxing Day, Sylvester said he feared that police brutality was raising its ugly heads on the island once again.

Five police officers, one of whom had just graduated from the Police Training School, have been charged with manslaughter in connection with Bartholomew’s death.

Guyana

Guyana rice production increased ll percent last year to reach its highest-ever level of 401,904 tons, earning the country more than US$169 million, the government said.

The steady increase in production was due to continued investment in programs and initiatives aimed at supporting rice farmers through agencies such as the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).

The GRDB has been credited with the successful launch of five new rice varieties for commercial cultivation, two of which were launched in 2011.

Another 14 strains are being tested and studied across the country to identify additional varieties in Guyana, the government said in a statement.

Last year, Guyana and Venezuela signed a US$54 million agreement for the supply of rice. More than 160,000 tons of Guyana’s rice exports went to the neighboring country.

Jamaica

Jamaica Police Commissioner Owen Ellington has warned police officers to be careful when handling weapons.

Speaking in a recent force orders the commissioner cited recent cases of cops suffering injuries due to careless handling of service weapons.

“It has been observed in recent times that a number of our members have been injured as a result of accidental discharge of the glock pistols issued for the performance of their duties,” he said.

Ellington said weapons should not routinely be carried with a round in the chamber and all unloading of weapons should be conducted into a sand pit or in a quiet area with the weapon pointing into soft soil.

Jamaica

Jamaica says it will appoint more Supreme Court judges and build new courtrooms in an effort to expedite a backlog of cases.

Chief Justice Zaila McCalla says that an unidentified number of new judges will be named by May.

The island’s Supreme Court currently has 27 judges and three acting judges. Jamaica has long been criticized for its backlog of cases, deteriorating courtrooms and outdated records.

Trinidad

State-owned Caribbean Airlines Ltd. (CAL) is increasing its North American and regional routes to Trinidad for Carnival 2012.

To accommodate the expected demand for the season, Toronto, New York, Orlando and Miami routes the airline has increased seating capacity and additional non-stop flights have been added to and from Barbados and Kingston, Jamaica.

In a release, CAL said an additional service between New York and Trinidad will also be opened by a wet-lease Boeing 747 jet. The double-decker aircraft has a capacity of 23 business class seats and 451 economy class seats.

“This will increase our offer to as many as five daily departures,” CAL said.

Additional flights have also been added to the Miami and Orlando to Trinidad routes, operated by CAL’s Boeing 737 fleet.

“As the official airline of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, CAL is well positioned to meet the travel demands of both international and regional passengers,” the airline said.

Trinidad

A raging controversy over “silk” being given to two sitting judges - Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Court of Appeal Judge Wendell Kangaloo - on New Year’s Day has forced the two eminent jurists to return the instruments, which granted them the title senior counsel status to President George Maxwell Richards last week.

A statement from the Judiciary read “Both the chief justice and Justice Kangaloo remain firm in their view that no wrong was committed in their acceptance of silk from the president and that their actions are very defensible and breached no protocol which was previously adhered to.

“However, they are deeply concerned that the heightened controversy has the potential to impact negatively on the Judiciary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the relations its treasures with its stakeholders.

“Their action was also taken in the interest of preserving the integrity and dignity of the Judiciary which is one of the fundamental pillars of democratic Trinidad and Tobago and which they are committed, not only to robustly defend, but also to scrupulously uphold,” the statement said.

The Law Association had distanced itself from the controversy, saying that it was not consulted on the silk appointment.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan were among 16 attorneys who were awarded “silk” (SC title) for 2012. The recommendations were made by the prime minister to President Max Richards.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Three local businessmen have been sentenced for their roles in a credit card fraud scam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A U.S. District Court judge recently sentenced brothers Saker and Jad Shalhout, owners of a specialty supermarket in St. Thomas, to 44 months in a federal prison for wire fraud for scamming American Express out of more than a million dollars.

The brothers were convicted of using their store’s electronic check-out system to run up phony expenses on credit cards and funneling the money into their personal bank accounts.

A co-defendant who pleaded guilty in March was ordered to one month in jail.

The three were turned over to U.S. marshals at the end of the hearing.

Compiled by Azad ALi

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