Defense force marines apprehended a Bahamian man they said was transporting 29 bales of suspected marijuana recently. The defense force said in a statement that while concluding a search and rescue exercise, the marines observed a suspicious go-fast vessel in the north – eastern section of Paradise Island, 500 meters off Cabbage Beach.
Upon further investigation, the marines noticed a man in an 18-foot open hull vessel, the statement said. A search of the vessel uncovered the suspected drugs onboard in two large coolers weighing 132 pounds with a street value of $132,000. The statement said the man was also in possession of US$2,400. The contraband, cash and the man were turned over to the police for further investigations, the statement said.
Legislators have closed a legal loophole and drunken drivers will now face an automatic ban, putting them off the road for at least 18 months.
The loophole had left magistrates with discretionary sentencing powers in dealing with drivers caught caught driving dangerously or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Anyone convicted will now face mandatory disqualification.
Transport Minister, Shawn Crockwell, who introduced the Traffic Offences (Penalties) Amendment Act 2013 in the House of Assembly said that a 2012 amendment had omitted the word “obligatory” in describing sentences for the various offences.
Driving while impaired or refusing to submit to a breath test now attracts a mandatory 18-month driving ban for the first offence. A three-year ban is to be imposed for a second offence and subsequent offences carry a five-year ban.
The amendment also addresses people who drive a motor car, auxiliary bicycle, cycle, or any other vehicle other than a motor car while under the influence of a dangerous drug.
The offence carries the same penalty as driving while impaired by alcohol, with repeat offenders facing fines of up to US$5,000, a ban of up to five years and as many as 12 traffic point demerits.
Offenders are also potentially subject to a period of imprisonment for up to a year on the first offence, 18 months on the second offence and two years for subsequent offences.
Crockwell explained that the law still allowed some discretion in sentencing but it was restricted to “special reasons” attached to the circumstances of the incident not the individual.
“Examples of special reasons might include driving someone to hospital while over the alcohol limit, driving to rescue a person from a danger and speeding to get there, driving whilst over the limit after your drinks have been spiked or laced,” he said.
Gaylynne Cannonier, the 48-year-old sister of Premier Craig Cannonier, recently escaped a driving disqualification because magistrates still had the discretion not to impose a ban if they saw fit.
Cannonier, who ran unsuccessfully in St. David’s for the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) in last December’s general election, walked away from Magistrates’ Court with a $1,500 fine imposed by Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner and seven demerit points on her licence rather than a ban for drunk driving.
Cleaning up local beaches, roadsides and doing other various odd jobs are entirely within the realm of possibility for inmates at her Majesty’s Prison, Northward, according to Cayman’s new prison system boss. Thirty-year veteran prison warden Neil Lavis, who arrived from the UK last month, said recently that he would like to get ‘Class D’ prisoners – the least violent category of offenders within Northward – out on the streets in work crews as soon as possible.
“I’d like to have prisoners who are low risk going out into the community every day, doing things like clearing up beaches, clearing up rubbish” Mr. Lavish said. “They may do that from the probation site now, but we don’t do anything like that and it’s a missed opportunity.”
The previous government spent an estimated $1 million a year on roadside clean-up efforts during the Christmas season in preparation for Cayman’s more popular tourism months. Prisons Director Lavis said he could have a few groups of prisoners doing that year–round for minimal cost. Some prisoners would have to supervised and transported on vehicles. They would also need to be vetted properly before participating in such a program.
Mr. Lavis said inmates at his previous post in Swansea, Wales went outside the confines of lock up on both volunteer and paid assignments. Such work can only help the prisoners integrate back into society, he said. It’s a position long advocated by former government minister and sociologist Dr. Frank McField, who said this week that he believed it was a mistake in 2009 for local government to close down the prison ‘wilderness farm.’
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Wednesday presented an EC$474.7 million (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) tax-free budget to Parliament predicting economic growth and improvements in the main revenue earning sectors. Skerrit, who is also finance minister, said that the budget presented does not include any new taxes or unrealistic promises and that it is based on the theme “Building On the Gains We Have Made.”
But in an immediate response, Opposition Leader Hector John described the fiscal package as “lazy man’s budget” and insisted that “we need to put Dominicans back to work. Several programs that he (Prime Minister Skerrit) promised to deliver during the last fiscal year were repeated in this address,” John said.
The government has allocated the biggest slice of the budget – EC$163.6 million – to its public sector investment program that Skerrit said would help foster economic growth and is aimed at reducing poverty and creating employment. He said more than 1,000 new jobs would be created during the fiscal year as a result of several investment initiatives to be undertaken over the next 12 months.
Skerrit told legislators that preliminary estimates indicate that the island’s economy recorded a minus 0.1 per cent growth last year, but this outlook is not in line with government’s projections, which “is slightly above the average of the ECCU (Eastern Caribbean Currency Union) region.”
A Caribbean trade bloc released a report yesterday that warns the region’s food import bill is increased at a rate of seven percent a year. CARICOM said its 15 members spent US$2.8 billion to import food in 2011, a 55 percent increase from 2005. Newer statistics were not available. It attributed the rise both to increased quantities and higher prices.
Most of the food is imported from the U.S., Canada and the European Union, ranking behind heavy machinery, transportation equipment, lubricants and related materials. The U.S. remains the main source for all regional imports, followed by the European Union.
The Caribbean also has recorded a jump in exports to Venezuela thanks to annual shipments of more than 50,000 tons (45,300 metric tonnes) of rice from Guyana under the Petrocaribe program, which allows countries to pay for oil imports with local commodities such as rice and bananas.
Caribbean leaders are urging the development of large farms in countries such as Guyana and Suriname so that local governments can buy food from each other instead of relying on imports from outside the region.
Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon says the government will crack down on anti-gay militants who use violence to express their position, while the police in the French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country denied allegations that two gay individuals were killed earlier this month. Sanon told the newly formed HCNN website that law enforcement officials will protect any individual who is a target for violence regardless of their religious or sexual orientation.
“This government won’t tolerate violence against anybody. Be they gay or not day individuals were attacked in the capital following an anti-gay street demonstration earlier this month, organized by a Christian grouping called coalition of religious and moral organizations.
A spokesman for the group, Pastor Gerald Forges, denounced what he called a plan orchestrated by Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups to get Parliament to pass a law authorizing gay marriage.
Ministry of Health is giving business operators a period of six months to post ‘no - smoking’ signs, in compliance with the Public Health (Tobacco Regulations) 2013, which ban smoking in public places. The legislation took effect on July 15. Speaking at a JIS “Think Tank” this week, legal officer at the Ministry of Health Sheryl Dennis said that owners and operators of businesses are required to post the no-smoking signs in visible places.
“Signs are to be prominently displayed posted in every compartment of public transport and businesses. They are specifically instructed on how to place the signs, so they are visible,” she said.
Fines and custodial sentences can be imposed on organizations, which fail to comply with the regulations after the six-month period.
Section 15 of the Public Health Act states that when a company breaches the regulation, a fine of up to $1 million can be imposed.
“Where a corporation is found liable, the individual fines and the custodial sentences can be applied to the (directors) and the company,” Dennis said.
Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) hosted energy officials from Venezuela for a two-day meeting on hydrocarbon exploration earlier this week. The Second Meeting of the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for the Unitization of Cross Border Hydrocarbon Reservoirs between TT and Venezuela took place at the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, Port – of – Spain recently. The meeting involved delegations led by the co-chairperson from Venezuela, Angel Gonzalez Saltron, Vice Minister of Hydrocarbons, People’s Ministry for Energy and Petroleum and his counterpart and co-chairperson from Trinidad and Tobago, Selwyn Lashley, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs.
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine met with the committee before the start of the discussions and highlighted the importance of these meetings among the technical experts in facilitating the development and monetization of gas fields in this region and the potential benefit of the Latin American and Caribbean communities.
Turks and Caicos
Now that there is a new government in the Turks and Caicos, the debate has shifted to the future of VAT in the islands. New Premier Rufus Ewing said he had been meeting with stakeholders to review his country’s financial affairs. He said he would then be in a position to make an informed decision on VAT, which is due to be introduced recently.
“Vat is a policy decision and we were elected to make policies,” Premier Ewing told a news conference recently. “I am of the view that should be in our remit and our powers, and we will go out to put policies in place that are in the best interest of the Turks and Caicos.”
The UK’s Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds has said that the decision is up to the new TCI government which came to power earlier this month, ending three years of direct British rule. However, according to the local media, some businessmen believe that VAT will still come in next year. “At first glance, we welcome the minister’s (Simmonds) statement,” a spokesman for the Turks and Caicos Independent Business Council told the TCI Free Post. “However, we are fairly certain that the governor can and will override this, which doesn’t say a lot for democratic government in these islands.”
The Business Council represents a group of hundreds of TCI businesses that oppose the introduction of VAT. The debate between the British authorities, the business sector and the newly-elected government is likely to heat up when Mr Simmonds visits TCI later in November.
Compiled by Azad Ali