Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it will form a commission to analyze the social, economic, health and legal impact of decriminalizing marijuana use. The announcement comes as CARICOM awaits a report on how medical marijuana could help boost the region’s economy. The report will be released in February 2016. Barbados Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart said recently that leaders would not be rushed into a decision. He spoke at a two-day CARICOM Summit held in the Bahamas. Recently, Jamaica’s parliament approved a bill that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana and establishes a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medical marijuana industry. Activists in St. Lucia and other Caribbean islands have been pushing to legalize marijuana use.

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has declined a request to grant visa-free entry to nationals of Taiwan. The government said the request had been made on Feb. 24 through the Secretariat of the St. Lucia-based Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a letter to OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules, said Antigua and Barbuda is committed to a one-China policy and has “enjoyed unbroken and beneficial relations with the Peoples Republic of China.” Therefore, the government of Antigua and Barbuda “respectfully declines the request.” Director General of Communications in the Prime Minister’s Office Maurice Merchant said the prime minister’s statement as outgoing chairman of CARICOM does not dilute in any way the ongoing commitment of Antigua and Barbuda to a one-China policy and its relations with the People’s Republic of China.” The prime minister thanked Taiwan as well as China for their assistance to the region.

Bahamas

A Jamaican woman has filed a civil lawsuit in the Bahamas Supreme Court against senior government officials. The woman, who claimed that a Bahamian immigration officer raped her, is seeking damages for battery, assault, false imprisonment and the breach of her constitutional rights. In the writ, the attorney general, minister and director of immigration, as well as the commissioner of police, have been accused of being liable for the alleged unlawful conduct, committed by police and immigration officers in the incident. In her claim, the woman describes a crowded and filthy detention center with menstruating females left to bleed out on the floor and no sanitary napkins or washing facilities. Immigration officer Norman Bastain, who is facing rape charges, was named as the fifth defendant. The matter is set for preliminary hearing in May and June. The alleged incident occurred in December last year when the woman was detained and released after an immigration raid on a bar in Nassau. It is alleged that Bastian took the woman to his house, where he raped her before releasing her two days later.

Barbados

Barbados has placed a ban on the importation of all live birds, hatching eggs and on fresh, frozen and chilled poultry meat and products, including table eggs, originating from the North American states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California. It said this follows the confirmation of an outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 and H5N2 in backyard and commercial poultry farms in the United States. The Ministry of Agriculture said the import restriction does not apply to commercial imports of products originated from the affected states that were produced before Jan. 1, 2015; nor to processed poultry products and by-products processed (heat treated) to ensure the destruction of the avian influenza virus. “Personal passenger imports of all fresh or cooked poultry products, with the exception of fully-cooked products in hermetically sealed packages are restricted from the United States as a whole,” the ministry said.

Grenada

JetBlue has announced that its New York-Grenada service is officially out for sale. The twice-weekly service between New York’s John F Kennedy Airport and Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport is slated to start on June 1, 2015.That will make JetBlue’s 90th city. Umang Gupta, director for JetBlue Getaway and leisure sales said, “Grenada attracts travelers seeking a variety of activities, whether for adventure, family holiday or romance and we are excited to provide a new way for more travelers to discover this hidden Caribbean gem.” In a statement, Grenada Tourism Minister Yolande Bain-Horsford said the new service would “surely expand the opportunities for bringing travelers to our shores to discover and enjoy all that our beautiful islands have to offer.”

Guyana

A Guyanese mother was arrested shortly after boarding a flight to New York after a search revealed she was allegedly carrying more than two kilos of cocaine. Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), James Singh, said two other persons were arrested from an East Coast Demerara village in connection with the discovery of the drug. Singh said the 26-year-old mother of a seven-year-old child was nabbed before boarding a Fly Jamaica flight to the United States. She appeared in court recently and was remanded in custody until next week. Meanwhile, drug enforcement agents are said to be concerned that the High Court has granted GUY$1 million bail to a Jamaican woman who excreted 49 pellets of cocaine that she was hoping to take back to her homeland. Alkesha Anderson, 34, a hairdresser of Portmore, Kingston was arrested on Feb. 6, 2015 and charged with being in possession of 606 grams of cocaine. She was granted bail by a High Court two weeks later. Authorities observed that the woman was granted pre-trial liberty although she is not a permanent resident in Guyana or had other ties to the country. Law enforcement agents are unsure whether she is still in the country.

Jamaica

There have been 14 notifications of chikungunya (Chick-V) related deaths to the Ministry of Health. Two were confirmed positive, one confirmed negative, and the others remain under investigation. This was revealed by the Ministry of Health recently following a report in The Gleaner on growing public concerns about Chik-V related deaths. Doctors and the public have been reporting that a considerable number of persons have died after contracting Chik-V then developing complications due to pre-existing medical conditions.

The public has been expressing concern that the ministry has not been revealing the true data on the impact of Chik-V, which has rocked Jamaica over the last eight months. In a media release, acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse said the ministry is aware of reports in the press indicating that persons had died of Chik-V. He said the cause of death would have to be looked at. Some people may have had a chronic illness and Chik-V would cause more severe symptoms, but not necessarily cause their death,” he said.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia police say they are investigating a scam that resulted in at least 16 people from Nepal and the Philippines falling prey to an Internet scam. A member of the group, Niranjan Neubana from Nepal told reporters that he had traveled to St. Lucia with dreams of acquiring an education in hospitality management and a promise of a job in the United States upon completion of a one-year course at an academy in St. Lucia. Instead, he and his group have been left stranded at a guesthouse at Gros Islet north of Castries. They were promised by an agent in their homeland of an education at Lambirds Academy in Gros Islet. Members of the group each paid US$13,000 to get to St. Lucia, in addition to US$9,000 to an individual claiming to represent Lambirds to secure their place at the academy. Neuban said when they turned up at the Lambirds Academy they found the place closed. They were told by the police that they had been duped.

Trinidad

One day after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar called on the authorities to wrap up the investigation into the email gate scandal, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams revealed that Internet service provider Google has provided the information that was requested and the Police Service is analyzing it. This comes two years after Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley disclosed the explosive content of e-mails alleged to come from senior government ministers, including the prime minister, which allegedly pointed to serious criminal offences by them. The Police Service issued a press release saying, “the information contained in the communication is voluminous in nature and the alleged e-mails are being analyzed by the Police Service to determine their authenticity.”

The acting top cop has given the assurance the outcome of the investigation will be made public in due course. The government officials have denied the allegations saying the e-mails were fake.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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