Caribbean Roundup

Antigua

The government of Antigua and Barbuda is likely to follow Belize and allow for a debate on the decriminalization of marijuana.

Speaking on a local radio program, National Security Minister Dr. Errol Cort said there were strong arguments in favor of changing the existing laws and would welcome a debate.

“I am aware, however, there is a push in various quarters to decriminalize marijuana. Persons have made the argument that there is medicinal usage from marijuana and others have said marijuana is part of a whole religious entity especially from the Rastafarian movement,” he said.

He said another set of arguments indicate that, notwithstanding the facts about marijuana, the illegal drugs trade continues to flourish.

But he warned that any change to the existing laws would only come following widespread public consultation.

Bahamas

A 44-year-old man from the Dominican Republic was jailed for four years by a magistrate in the Bahamas court for having $2.5 million worth of cocaine.

Police charged Jose Cabrera, of Santo Domingo, on suspicion of drug smuggling at North West Cay, of Great Inaugua, on Aug. 30, 2012.

Law enforcement officers dug up six crocus bags containing l40 kilos of cocaine after Cabrera showed them the hiding spot on the cay.

The court heard that Cabrera and others buried the drugs on the Cay several months ago when they encountered bad weather. Cabrera said that he did not know he was in Bahamian territory because he was lost.

Cabrera said his boss sent him to retrieve the drugs when he was arrested, the court was told.

He pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiracy to possess drugs with the intent to supply and cocaine possession when he appeared before Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell on Sept. 4, 2012.

Sean Pratt, 41, the second defendant in the case, faces charges of cocaine possession with the intent to supply and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to supply.

Pratt, of the Turks and Caicos Islands, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was denied bail and remanded in custody until April 25, 2013.

Barbados

Cuban Raul Garcia, who remained in jail despite having completed a 20-year jail sentence on drug-related charges in Barbados is to be released and placed in a safe house “under the auspices of the Barbados Defense Force,” the Nation newspaper reported.

Recently, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the government is considering two options with respect to the future of Garcia, telling reporters that the options have to be carefully examined given the national security concerns of the island.

Garcia has remained incarcerated because of complications associated with his immigration status.

Stuart said “the nature of the offence for which he was convicted is an offence that has grave implications. Or would had have grave implications for Barbados had he not been nabbed and prosecuted.”

Garcia was arrested on Sept. 28, l994 on drug charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, along with a US$500,000 fine.

But he successfully appealed the sentence and five years later he was given a 20-year term.

Cayman Islands

Premier McKeeva Bush, who is also minister of Finance, has announced that JetBlue Airlines will soon begin service to the Cayman Islands.

JetBlue is expected to serve Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport with three times weekly service on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from New York JFK Airport beginning November 15, 2012.

The airline will also include a Saturday-only service to the Cayman Islands from Boston’s Logan International Airport, which it plans to start from Nov. 17.

Bush said this development has been part of his government’s undertaking to expand the catchment area of the tourist market.

“We are prepared to work with the air carriers through the Cayman Islands Airports Authority,” he said.

Guyana

The Guyana economy grew by 2.8 percent during the first six months of this year, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said.

In a review of the country’s mid-year performance, Singh said that “this growth reflects continued progress on the diversification of the productive sector where we have now arrived at a point where we are no longer as we were l0 years ago, entirely dependent on one, two or three dominant sectors.”

He said there had been significant strides in diversifying the economy resulting in the 2.8 percent growth even though there had been a contraction in sugar production.

Singh said that total export earnings grew by 9.2 percent totaling US$592.1 million.

In addition, the bauxite sector recorded an increase of 41.9 percent, earning US$79.4 million and production in the rice industry expanded by 1.4 percent to 210,395 tons earning US$84.6 million.

Jamaica

A 27-year-old Jamaican has appeared in court in connection with a highly-publicized case in which nude pictures of hundreds of women were posted on local websites.

Ronald Oates was recently arrested and slapped with several charges under the Cyber Crime Act and the Larceny Act, including unauthorized access, unauthorized obstruction, unlawfully making available data for the commission of an offence and obscene publication. He is also charged with conspiracy to extort, extortion under the Larceny Act.

The crime, which was first brought to the attention of the police last March, is said to involve 25 victims.

Police say the accused would hack into the email accounts of his victims, gaining access to their nude photographs. He would then contact the women threatening to upload the photographs to a local website if he is not paid a certain sum of money, or he would upload the photos and then demand money for them to be removed from the website.

According to the police, he often demanded between J$10,000 and J$20,000 from his victims. Police say those targeted were mainly from Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine, but the crime also stretched as far as Manchester. Oates will re-appear in court next month.

Jamaica

Undaunted by the operating woes of Air Jamaica and the recent demise of Barbados-based RedJet, the investors behind Fly Jamaica Airways are pushing ahead with their plans to be fully operational before the start of the tourist high season in December.

Chief Operating Officer Lloyd Tai said that following a satisfactory demonstration, the airline will be given its license to operate.

He said this is the first time that an airline in Jamaica has had to go through the full certification process.

He said Fly Jamaica Airways would likely start with a three-on-three flight schedule to each destination, with one-day downtime for maintenance.

Fly Jamaica was set to begin operations in August but Tai said with the remaining processes it would likely take another month before the airline officially takes to the skies.

Jamaica

Jamaica Police Commissioner Owen Ellington says police killings have declined in recent years but the government and opposition have expressed support for the embattled top cop.

Recently the People’s National Party (PNP) Youth Organization called for Ellington to be removed from the post citing a high rate of extra-judicial killings and police excesses.

But in a statement, Ellington said “the records will show that fatal shootings by the police have been on the decline in recent years.

“Indeed, the figures for 2012 show continuing decline, which, if it holds, could see this year ending with the lowest figures in seven years,” he said, noting that the figures will for the period 2006-2012 there was an average of 253 fatal shootings annually, with 2010 and 2008 recording the highest and lowest figures respectively, 320, in 2011 and 225 in 2008.

Ellington said that violent crimes such as murder, shooting, robbery and sexual assault have decreased in the last three years and the authorities have implemented several strategies to curb unwarranted violence by agents of the state.

Trinidad

The United States is still seeking to extradite two Trinidad and Tobago businessmen, Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson to the United States to face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Department in Port of Spain issued a statement saying “The United States continues to seek their extradition despite the ruling last year by the Trinidad and Tobago High Court. They remain under indictment in the United States.”

The statement followed legal action taken by the two businessmen to have their cases dismissed from the courts under the contentious Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings Act 2011), which was proclaimed by President Max Richards on August 30, 2012.

Following an outcry over the proclamation by the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and other sectors of the society, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration was forced to hurriedly summon parliament to repeal the Act last week.

The US said it was concerned that the fraud cases would be dropped.

The two were indicted in 2005 in a Miami Federal Court on numerous fraud and money-laundering charges stemming from alleged bid-rigging between l996 and 2005 on contracts for the TT$1.6 billion Piarco International Airport project.

The High Court had ruled that Galbaransigh and Ferguson could be tried in Trinidad and Tobago for the offences and quashed the extradition warrants for the two men. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan did not appeal the ruling, promising that both accused would face a “speedier trial in T&T.”

Had the section 34 of the Act not repealed Galbaransingh and Ferguson would have had their cases dismissed since they had fell under the l0-year time limit stipulated for cases to be dismissed under the section.

Trinidad

Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley led a march of hundreds of supporters to President’s House to deliver a petition, with more than 5,000 signatures, calling on President Max Richards to demand a written explanation from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as to why the controversial Section 34 of Administration of Justice Act, the Amnesty section, was prematurely selected to become law.

The petition listed a timeline beginning with Nov. 3, 2011, when Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh quashed an attempt by the Attorney General to extradite “two self-confessed financiers of the United National Congress.”

Dr. Rowley wants the president to demand an explanation from Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar as the reason/s for the decision by the Cabinet which, he claimed acted in breach of the trust of the Parliament.

The petition also calls for the immediate revocation of the appointment of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney “so as to avoid further national distress and international opprobrium in this matter.”

Compiled by Azad Ali

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