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National Security Minister, Robert Montague (file Photo)

Jamaicans urged to show more support for police

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 22, CMC – National Security Minister, Robert Montague, has called on the population to be more appreciative of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) role in safeguarding the country’s security.

National Security Minister, Robert Montague (file Photo)

Addressing a ceremony here where a vehicle valued at J$7.6 million (One Jamaica dollar =US$0.008 cents) was donated to the Jamaica Police Federation, Montague said that the JCF’s members often worked under severe conditions “that leave much to be desired”.

He said against this background, the government is taking steps to effect improvements, to include repairing more police stations and boosting the organisation’s mobility.

He said the latter intervention will entail the acquisition of 200 additional motor vehicles at a cost of J$418 million and would augment the 114 motor cycles that were recently repaired after being side-lined since 2012.

Montague told the ceremony that the JCF is among some of the most “under-appreciated” institutions in Jamaica, and emphasised the need to “place on record, our thanks and appreciation for the work and worth of the members.

“We need to show more appreciation, as a nation, for the persons who put on the uniform of the constabulary force… or who simply serve this country in the many ways that they are called upon to serve.”

Police Federation Chairman, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, noted the “arduous and challenging” environment under which the JCF’s members work.

But he welcomed the government’s undertaking to improve the conditions under which the police work, and expressed gratitude “for your unrelenting support given to the men and women of the JCF”.

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st luciaexplo

Four killed, several others injured in explosion

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 22, CMC – At least four people were killed, more than 20 injured and at least four others airlifted to the neighbouring French island of Martinique as police launched an investigation into an explosion at a construction site in Cul de Sac, east of here on Tuesday evening.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has called on the nation to pray for the families of the victims.

st luciaexplo“Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and those who are still waiting to find out information about their family members. You are all in our prayers in this difficult time. We must all support each other at this time and pray for our fellow St. Lucians,” Chastanet said.

“We must say thanks to the emergency personnel, the police and fire officers, who responded to the incident and who are still working tirelessly … at the site to find persons. The staff, the nurses and doctors, of the Victoria Hospital, who responded, some without being called and who are working overtime to attend to the injured must be thanked for their selfless dedication in the wake of this crisis,” he said, adding that the incident has taken the nation by shock.

The explosion was heard miles away, shattered glass windows and doors of nearby businesses, and destroyed offices and several pieces of heavy duty equipment on site.

It remains uncertain as to what caused the explosion but a supervisor told reporters that it may have been triggered by workers engaged in a welding operation in close proximity to a container loaded with explosive material, including dynamite.

Initially, many persons in communities further away from the blast, called state radio saying that they mistook the explosion for an earthquake, as another section of the capital engaged in a major regional tsunami response exercise referred to as “Caribewave 2017”.

The exercise held across the Caribbean and Latin America stimulated a widespread tsunami watch and warning situation throughout the region requiring the activation of local tsunami response plans.

According to health officials 22 persons had been brought to the Victoria Hospital (VH) with four people, including three at the site confirmed dead.

The officials said that four persons had to be airlifted by military aircraft to Martinique and that one person is reported missing following the incident that occurred at Rayneau Construction.

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Police to investigate government seasonal programme

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Mar 21, CMC – The Grenada police have launched an investigation into a multi-million dollar government seasonal programme amid allegations that “phantom workers” were benefiting from the scheme.

Minister of Works Gregory Bowen, speaking to reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said that Audit Department as well as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) will also be involved in the investigation into the “debuhing programme” of the Ministry of Works.

Gregory Bowen

The government debushing programme, usually conducted during the Easter, August and Christmas periods, employs more than 3, 500 workers under the EC$1.9 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) programme per season.

“It’s been reported that certain persons are getting contracts because of their closeness with certain officials, be that as it may, we are not saying that all the allegations are true but when persons come forward and say to me I have reported this years gone by I say to them you also have to take the steps and give assurance that if called upon and substantiate the claim,” said Bowen, noting that most of the allegations are on contracts that are not tendered.

“The audit, the police and FIU will just do what they have to do,” said Bowen, adding that apart from the debushing programme, the authorities will also be investigating the Physical Planning Unit, which approves residential and commercial architectural designs for construction.

Bowen said that there are allegations that the staff of the PPU are offering private service to persons and ensuring that the plans are approved quicker.

Bowen said that there is no time line for the investigations.

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Government to revisit controversial police legislation

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 20, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government Monday said it was prepared to re-examine the amendment to the Police Act that has been described as “unconstitutional”.

Attorney General by Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin, speaking on Observer radio here, said that he had the opportunity on Sunday to listen to some of the critical comments of the Police Amendment Bill 2017 that critics, including a former commissioner of police say put too much power in the hands of the politician.

Attorney General by Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin.

“Yesterday, I listened to the debate and the discussions on (radio programme) “Big Issues”…I am satisfied that there are areas which can be looked at again and must be addressed appropriately.

“I have already spoken with the prime minister (Gaston Browne) on this matter and with the Commissioner of Police. I have done some research last evening …and I am satisfied that Section 23 (a) must be looked at again”.

That section seeks to impose ministerial control over the transfer of police officers.

“The case law is quite clear that that cannot be so. So what we propose to do is to get that amendment and make it quickly into compliance with the Constitution.

“It is intended that the Police Service Commission upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police may transfer the officer to the appropriate area,” Benjamin told radio listeners, agreeing that the Police Service Commission must maintain its independence.

The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Spokesman on Legal Affairs, Leon Chaku Symister said the amendment passed last Friday “violates the Constitution” and “creates dual jurisdictions for the transfer of high ranking officers”.

On the “Big Issues” radio programme, Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals ,Oral Reid, described the legislation as  “a dangerous step” which “serves to extend greater control over the police commissioner” and which “emasculates the police service commission”.

Former commissioner of police, Vere Browne, told radio listeners on Sunday that the Constitution makes sufficient provision for the transfer of officers by the authority of the Police Service Commission and advised that the government re-visited the legislation.

The Chairman of the Police Service Commission of Barbados, Richard Guyson Mayers, who also appeared on the programme, said at the least, the Bill “comes very close” if it does not violate the Constitution.

But Benjamin said Monday it was never the intention of the Browne government to put any power in the hands of the minister.

He said as the panellists had indicated, they understood the intention of the amendment.

“It was to take full advantage of our scarce resource,” he said adding “I want to thank the panel of yesterday….for the very constructive insight.

“It was a very important debate and it showed that that is how democracy works,” Benjamin said.

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court rul

Two charged in the death of a police woman

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 20, CMC – Two persons, including a 36-year-old woman, will return to court on April 18 after they were charged with murder and illegally disposing of the body of woman police officer Nyasha Joseph, whose body was fished out of the sea last week.

Melissa and Kenneth Browne, (not relatives) appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers Caesar in the Port of Spain Eighth Court on Monday, less than 24 hours after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had given police the go-ahead to charge them.

court rulKenneth Browne, 36, is charged with knowingly assisting in the murder of the police officer illegally disposing of a body, while Melissa Browne, 36, charged with murdering WPC Joseph sometime between March 8 and March 16, at Sea Lots, just on the outskirts of the capital. She was not required to plead as the charge was laid indictably.

The police woman had been reported missing on March 8, and her body was found by a fisherman in Gulf of Paria on March 16. The cause of her death could not be determined by the pathologist.

Police said that the accused are not married but have a relationship.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Criston J Williams told the court that he had written to the Commissioner of Police and the head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) requesting an investigation into the conduct of the police officers during their probe.

He said the officers used unfair interrogation techniques and were disrespectful to the lawyers representing the accused.

Williams said that when he and other attorneys attempted to meet with the accused during the investigation, the officers resisted and claimed that one police officer placed his hands on Williams in an attempt to push him away.

Williams said his clients’ fundamental rights had been breached.

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US Coast Guard

US Coast Guard repatriates 27 Cuban migrants

MIAMI, Mar. 19, CMC – The United States Coast Guard says the Cutter Charles Sexton repatriated 27 Cuban migrants Friday to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba.

US Coast GuardThe Coast Guard said the repatriation was the result of a migrant interdiction near Key Largo last Sunday.

The Coast Guard said it “helped secure the US border and prevent this sea voyage from ending in tragedy.”

“We discourage anyone from taking to the sea and attempting to reach US soil illegally – they are risking their lives with very little chance of success,” said Captain Aldante Vinciguerra, chief of response for the Coast Guard 7th District.

It is estimated that 1,951 Cubans have attempted to illegally migrate to the US via the maritime environment since January 1, compared to 7,411 Cubans in fiscal year 2016.

The Coast Guard says these numbers represent the total number of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.

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Dr. Orlando Smith

Premier calls for overseas help in crime fight

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands , Mar. 19, CMC – Premier Dr Orlando Smith has vowed to leave no stone unturned as security officials in this British Overseas territory deal with an upsurge in crime.

In a recent press release, Smith said that if necessary, overseas help sought be sought and highly trained cops should be pulled from retirement.

Dr. Orlando Smith
Dr. Orlando Smith

“No stone should be left unturned in bringing the perpetrators to justice of all crimes, and particularly the heinous crimes that have been committed in this territory. If this calls for bringing in assistance from abroad, let’s do so immediately.”

The Premier’s resolve follows a directive issued by Governor John Duncan late Friday in which he used his constitutional power to force the Government to add US$800,000 to the police budget for this financial year.

The government, in its budget had allocated US$161 million to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.

Duncan, told journalists that he was reluctant to resort to his constitutional power, but said the police force is currently under funded at a time when crime is a big concern.

Governor John Duncan
Governor John Duncan

The Governor’s announcement has been endorsed by the Premier.

“Yes, we must provide the police with financial resources. In addition, the Commissioner (of Police) and the Force must continue to be innovative and creative in carrying out their duties….” He said.

However, a member of the main opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP),Julian Fraser – said the order issued by Duncan has set the territory back in its constitutional advancement.

“I didn’t think the day would come when I would see a governor exercise a monarchical take-over of our Treasury. This is what I call a soft takeover of the democratically elected Smith government. The governor was wrong and he has to be stopped,” Fraser said in a post on his Facebook page.

According to Fraser, who the governor recently removed as opposition leader – the Governor should stay out of “our local politics”

“He has the Protocols for Effective Financial Management to hold the government accountable with. That is an administrative arrangement between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Government of the Virgin Islands to keep the government frugal in its financial affairs,” Fraser noted.

Since the start of the year three persons have been murdered across the territory – with two being murdered in less tan 24 hours.

According to police statistics, last year, four people were murdered and 18 gun robberies were reported.

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Regional Security Council ministers meeting in St. Kitts

 BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Mar 17, CMC – The annual Regional Security System (RSS) Council of Ministers’ meeting is taking place here on Friday with officials underscoring its importance to security in the Caribbean.

“There has been a significant increase in drug seizures in collaboration with security forces of the region, as well as the RSS Air Wing.

Captain Errington Shurland (Left) and Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris

“There has also been a significant increase in the assets that have been seized or forfeited, to include money and property, and this is through the recently developed Regional Security System Asset Recovery Unit,” said the RSS executive director, Captain Errington Shurland.

The meeting here is being held under the chairmanship of St.. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris.

The chairmanship of the Barbados-based RSS rotates on an annual basis among Council members from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadine, Grenada and St. Kitts-Nevis.

The RSs was formed in October 1982, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Barbados to provide mutual assistance upon request

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Portia Simpson Miller

Simpson Miller bids farewell and urges government to reverse tax package

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar. 16, CMC – Leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller added her voice to others who have called on the Andrew Holness administration to reverse the J$13.5 billion (One Jamaica dollar =US$0.008 cents) tax package announced by Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

Portia Simpson Miller “This is “tax-perity” gone wild, said Simpson Miller as she made her final contribution to the 2017/2018 budget debate as opposition leader on Thursday .

She accused the government of taxing group health insurance and fuel, among other things.

“The people were promised no new taxes to implement the $1.5 million tax threshold. Yet in only 12 months the people have been devastated with over $29 billion in new and unnecessary taxes to finance the so-called give back,” adding that “the administration’s version of prosperity is a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.”

“It is the reckless political promises that were made that has caused us to be at this point today. We warned that if the tax threshold was lifted, you would have had to impose new taxes on the backs of the people – that’s what we said. This is what is now happening. Now hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans will have to pay even though they will not benefit.

They will have to bear the costs of your recklessness – this could have been avoided. It is the biggest political trick to have ever been perpetrated on the Jamaican people,” she said.

The former Prime also expressed disappointment at an election promise made by Holness that crime will be addressed.

“I am disappointed that after one year in office, this Government has not delivered the promised crime plan, this is clearly not good enough.

“I am expecting that when the Prime Minister speaks next week, he will announce more resources for our security and intelligence teams to outmatch, outwit and out maneuver the criminals.”

She noted that social issues are the “root cause” of crime and violence and insisted that “every single Jamaican has a vested interest in the fight to defeat the spiraling crime”.

On the issue of crime and women, the opposition leader called for the increased protection of women.

“If necessary, we need to establish a committee with persons from both sides and meet with security forces to see what is causing so many murders in the country. It had seized, but it is rising again. Too many of our women are being murdered and it’s disheartening…too many have been victims of domestic abuse, rape and murder. We are now at a point of crisis.”

Simpson Miller who also reflected on her legacy, said the moment was “bitter sweet”.

“I’ve seen the good, the bad, the happy and the sad, but above all I’ve had an incredible journey of service to my beloved people and country. Empowering and uplifting the people has been central to me…from the poor and dispossessed to the rich and the powerful. I remain as convinced today as I was 43 years ago that beyond racial origins we must believe in ourselves and our common destiny when we work together.”

The former Prime Minister who was lauded, not only by members of the opposition PNP, but legislators from the Jamaica Labour Party said that she will never stop believing “in the potential of the Jamaica people and their capacity for greatness…I have always believed that it is the people who have the ultimate power not us. It is on their behalf and in their interest that we must always exercise power.

She will step down as opposition leader on April 2, paving the way for the ascent of Dr. Peter Phillips.

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court rul

Killer jailed for 35 years

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Mar 15, CMC – A 25-year-old man has been sentenced to 35 years in jail after he was convicted of murdering a fellow Bermudian outside a popular sports club in 2015.

Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said Shantoine Burrows showed “some premeditation” in committing the murder of Rickai Swan, 26, and displayed the “mind-set of a person intent on killing”.

court rulShe described video capturing the murder played during his trial as “chilling”.

Swan was gunned down outside the Southampton Rangers Sports Club — a team he grew up playing football for — in October 2015.

Burrows must serve a minimum sentence of 25 years for the murder and the judge said his 10-year sentence for use of a firearm in committing the murder does not start until after the 25 years.

Burrows was convicted last October of the fatal shooting of Swan, who was socialising with friends outside of the club.  A jury found Burrows unanimously guilty of the charges last year and he was remanded in custody. He was also found guilty of injuring Damiko Gibbons.

Crown counsel Nicole Smith described the murder as a “public execution”, which displayed “no mitigating circumstances”.

She described Burrows as “not a man of good character”, devoid of respect for the law or remorse for his crime.

But in addressing the court, Burrows maintained his innocence.

“I still stand before you an innocent man,” he said, adding “justice wasn’t served.”

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