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US Embassy to waive visa renewal interviews for Barbadians

US Embassy to waive visa renewal interviews for Barbadians

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 23, CMC – The United States (US) Embassy has announced that from August 28, it will waive visa renewal interviews in Barbados for qualified applicants.

It said the move is part of the US Government’s efforts to improve customer service and streamline the visa process.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Embassy said Barbados passport holders may qualify for a visa renewal interview waiver if their previous visa expired within the past 12 months and they are applying for the same visa category as their previous visa.

“The applicant must be physically present in Barbados or within the consular district of the US Embassy in Bridgetown to avail themselves of this option. Additionally, the previous US visa must be in the applicant’s possession, and the applicant must have submitted a ten-fingerprint scan in conjunction with the previous visa application,” it said.

Students who wish to renew their visas, and who satisfy the requirements may qualify for interview waiver if they are applying to continue attendance at the same institution, or will continue the same major course of study at a different institution. Applicants seeking to renew work-related visas who are returning to work for the same employer/company as annotated on the previous visa may also qualify. Applicants under the age of 14 and over 79 will continue to qualify for interview waiver in most visa classifications.

However, third country nationals must schedule an interview.

The US Embassy stressed that eligibility for interview waiver does not automatically entitle applicants to a waiver of the interview requirement.

It added that there will be further expansion of interview waivers in US Embassy Bridgetown’s consular district in the coming weeks.


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Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat.

UK Armed Forces on high alert for hurricane season

News story

The UK’s Overseas Territories will have unwavering military support throughout the 2018 hurricane season, a Defence minister has confirmed.

Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat.
Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat. Crown copyright.

British residents were killed, homes were destroyed and infrastructure was decimated when Irma and Maria, two of the most powerful hurricanes for decades, smashed through the region back-to-back in September 2017.

Mark Lancaster visited Barbados, Antigua and Montserrat this week to reassure locals that the Ministry of Defence is supporting other Government departments to ensure that similar devastation is not repeated.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said:

No matter what the elements throw at our Overseas Territories this year, we will be there to help them every step of the way throughout 2018 and beyond. We may not be able to prevent natural disasters from occurring, but our world-class military have been planning meticulously to ensure lives are protected and damage is kept to a minimum.

Our citizens in the Caribbean have already shown incredible resilience over the last year and we are determined that when this difficult period is over their local facilities are in a better state than they were before.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay will act as the hub of the UK’s response, and the minister was able to see a demonstration of her amphibious capabilities while in Montserrat.

Fleet Auxiliary vessel MOUNTS BAY and her crew conducting a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise in Montserrat.
Fleet Auxiliary vessel MOUNTS BAY and her crew conducting a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise in Montserrat. Crown copyright.

As well as being able to carry vital aid and equipment, RFA Mounts Bay also has the latest Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter on board to provide aerial support. There is also a medical facility on board, with 10 patient beds for anyone who suffers serious injuries or illness.

The visit also provided an opportunity for Mr Lancaster to speak to island governors and residents about their needs as they continue to recover from last year’s hurricanes.

As well as preparing for this year, RFA Mounts Bay has been in the region since Irma struck and will remain there until 2020 to help restore the islands to normal.

A Wildcat helicopter takes off from RFA Mounts Bay during the Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise
A Wildcat helicopter takes off from RFA Mounts Bay during the Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise. Crown copyright.

The Government has already committed £142million to support the recovery effort in the affected territories, as well as £300million of UK loan guarantees.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon is currently visiting the British Virgin Islands, which suffered extensive damage, as the Government continues its preparations for 2018.

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People embrace outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe High School today.

At least eight dead in Texas high school shooting

Jamaica Observer

Friday, May 18, 2018

People embrace outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe High School today.

CHICAGO, United States (AFP) — At least eight people were killed when a male student opened fire at a Texas high school on Friday, a local sheriff said, as President Donald Trump expressed his “heartbreak” over the “horrific” shooting.

The incident took place at Santa Fe High School in the city of the same name, located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Houston.

“There are multiple fatalities,” the sheriff of Harris County, Ed Gonzalez, told a news briefing. “There could be anywhere between eight to 10, the majority being students.”

The male teen suspect in custody was not immediately identified. A second possible person of interest was being questioned, Gonzalez told reporters.

A somber Trump, who was speaking at an event on prison reform at the White House, expressed “sadness and heartbreak” over the deadly shooting spree.

“This has been going on too long in our country,” Trump said. “We’re with you in this tragic hour.”

The shooting was the latest in what has become an all-too-familiar situation in American schools, where gun violence has become a part of everyday life.

Earlier this year, 17 students and staff were killed in a shooting at a Florida high school — a massacre that prompted survivors to launch a grassroots campaign against gun violence.

The US president, who has previously shied away from gun control measures in favor of arming teachers, said his administration was “determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves, and to others.”

– Multiple shots –
The shooting erupted before 8:00 am, as the school day was beginning.

“There was someone that walked in with a shotgun and started shooting, and this girl got shot in the leg,” an eyewitness identified as Nikki told local television station KTRK.

She said students fled the school in a panic, and several other students told local media they heard multiple gunshots.

The school district, which quickly imposed a lockdown, cleared the students from the campus, with television footage showing them leaving in a single file. No other schools had been affected.

Some students were evacuated to a nearby auto shop, where parents were picking up their children, according to CBS affiliate KHOU-TV.

Parent Richard Allen told KTRK he arrived at the school soon after the shooting and reported seeing a number of victims being taken away in ambulances.

“My son said someone went into the art room and started shooting a lot of the kids,” Allen said.

Student Paige Curry told local media that she heard gunshots and then a fire alarm, after which students were taken out by teachers to a nearby gas station.

“I saw some girl — she had, you know, she got shot in the kneecap, I guess. So she had a bandage around it. She was limping and then the firemen came and got her,” another student, who gave his first name as Tyler, told CBS.

A large contingent of police as well as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the incident.

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Phillipe Ardanaz

Treaty signed to define maritime space with French territories

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar. 16, CMC – A treaty to solidify negotiations with the Republic of France to define the maritime space between Antigua and Barbuda and neighbouring French territories, was signed by government officials on Wednesday.

The treaty establishes the outer limits of Antigua & Barbuda’s jurisdiction from where the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) ends, its use, and exploration and exploitation of the Atlantic Ocean in respect to Guadeloupe and Saint Barthelemy.

It also embraces the interests of local fishermen and seafarers who now have a clearer understanding of the delineation of boundaries, thereby enabling both governments to rectify the common issue.

Phillipe Ardanaz
Phillipe Ardanaz

“It is also the first step to manage the problems we may have between our fishermen; obviously, it is never easy to know if you are in French waters or Antiguan waters,” said Ambassador to the OECS Member States and Barbados, Phillipe Ardanaz, who signed the treaty.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his administration recognises the need for adopting a ‘Blue Economy’ approach to development and is currently looking at ways to develop the nation’s oceanic resources.

“That is a significant amount of resources for us to harness, in fact it is almost 200 times our land space. My understanding is that within the next 40 years, it will be very difficult to find sufficient land space in order to produce sufficient food to sustain the global population,” Browne said.

The prime minister added that possessing a large EEZ provides the opportunity to satisfy seafood demand and suggested the twin island is capable of harvesting in the region of 10,000 tonnes of fish and fish products each year.

“As it stands now, fresh fish and fish products are relatively outside the means of the ordinary Antiguan and Barbudan, but as we continue to invest more resources in the ‘Blue Economy’ in fisheries, we will see an increase in supply and therefore that should help to drive down the cost.”

The Prime Minister said this treaty delineates an essential area in the Atlantic waters that will ensure there are no disputes over maritime space with the country’s neighbours.

The signing of the agreement follows the Eastern Caribbean Ocean Policy (ECROP) declaration for OECS members to formalise maritime boundaries in securing rights protection and jurisdiction over marine areas.

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Rowley KK

Trinidad PM supports death penalty

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 16, CMC – Prime Minister Dr, Keith Rowley Thursday said he supports the death penalty and that his administration is working towards having it implemented as it moves to deal with those citizens bent on committing murder ‘with impunity” in Trinidad and Tobago.

Rowley, speaking at the end of the weekly Cabinet news conference, told reporters that “this fight against the criminal element is a national crusade” and urged the public to assist the police in carrying out their investigations.

Rowley KK
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

“This just require that we stay on the job and do what is required. There are people in this country who has chosen crime as a way of life,” he said, adding that “we are being traumatised by a very small minority and we are going to take the best chance in law to protect us”.

Rowley said that even when people are incarcerated “they are running criminal empires from inside the jail and we are going to take steps to ensure that this does not go on”.

He told reporters he does not care whatever the backlash could be from his position but he wanted to make it abundantly clear that he is a “firm believer in capital punishment.

“It is the punishment for the crime,” he said, noting that “it is my view that people acting with impunity that nothing will happen” when they commit the crimes including murder.

Rowley said that the Attorney General Faris Al Rawi has set up in his office the mechanism to monitor persons who have been convicted of murder and is moving to ensure that they pay the penalty keeping in mind the Pratt and Morgan ruling of the Privy Council that persons on death row for more than five years can’t be executed.

Despite Trinidad and Tobago hosting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the oil rich twin island republic still uses the London-based court as its final court.

Rowley said that former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is also assisting the government so that “persons of recent vintage (convicted of murder) will pay the ultimate penalty”.

Rowley said that his administration is providing all the necessary resources to the security forces to deal with the crime situation here and reiterated a call for the law abiding public to help the police in their investigation.

Rowley said there were some people who were bent on committing crime not as a result, for instance of having lost their jobs, but who believe that it is their right to take lives and property from other nationals.

The last execution in Trinidad and Tobago occurred on July 28, 1999 when Anthony Briggs was hanged after being convicted for the August 1992 murder of a taxi driver, Siewdath Ramkissoon during a robbery in August 1992.

Briggs was hanged just over a month after the members of the Dole Chadee gang were hanged over a three-day period.

Dole Chadee, Joey Ramiah and Ramkelawan Singh were executed on June 4, 1999, while Clive Thomas, Robin Gopaul and Russell Sankeralli were hanged on June 5, 1999.

On June 7, 1999 Joel Ramsingh, Steve Eversley and Bagwandeen Singh were hanged.

The Chadee gang were hanged for their involvement in the murder of the Baboolal family in 1994.

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US $2.5M marijuana bust in the Bahamas

Untitled-2MIAMI, CMC – The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says a joint task force from Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) seized 2,842 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated wholesale value of over US$2.5 million during three separate law enforcement operations in The Bahamas last week.

CBP reports that over three separate nights, aircrews observed suspicious go-fast vessels transiting waters in the southeast Bahamas.

It said surface and air assets were subsequently dispatched to pursue and apprehend the suspected smugglers.

In addition to the narcotics seized, CBP said two smuggling vessels and a vehicle were taken into custody, and a total of six suspects were arrested.

The seized go-fast vessels and contraband were eventually escorted to Nassau, Bahamas, for further processing.

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Helicopter on RFA Lyme Bay

Nearly 3,000 pounds of cocaine seized in Caribbean Sea


Florida – CMC – The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says it has seized a vessel carrying more than 2,860 pounds of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea.

CBP said that the seizure at the end of July was part of international operations targeting illicit traffickers.

It said that the smugglers began throwing the drugs over board when spotted and that three individuals had been detained and more than a ton of cocaine seized.

“Our exceptional agents are in a position to expose nefarious activities on the high seas and collaborate with a robust network of law enforcement and military partners committed to denying drug traffickers a safe haven,” said Director of National Air Security Operations Center, Robert Blanchard.

Drugs fields discovered in Montserrat

Helicopter on RFA Lyme Bay

Helicopter on RFA Lyme Bay

Just two days before this report, Captain Mintor of of RFA Lyme Bay of the Royal Auxilary Fleet during its three-day visit reported that here in Montserrat his helicopter carried out surveillance with the Royal Montserrat Police Services discovering three fields of marijuana plants in the Centre Hills.

“With enhanced interdiction capabilities we’ll continue to provide unparalleled maritime surveillance capabilities.”

CBP said Operation Martillo is a critical component of the US government’s coordinated interagency regional security strategy to counter the spread of transnational organized crime in the region and the use of transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons, cash, and human trafficking.


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Islamic State hacks St. Vincent government website



The Islamic State (IS) or ISIS

St. Vincent, May 4, CMC – The Islamic State (IS), an Islamist rebel group claiming religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, has hacked the official website of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government (, a message appearing on the website Sunday evening suggested.

Visitors to the website were greeted by a message saying “Hacked By  Moroccanwolf – Islamic State” and a photo of man firing a high calibre machine gun from the back of a pick-up truck.

A message appearing on the website says US and NATO Forces are involved in “Organised butchery of Human race since it’s (sic) inception.

“They overthrow governments of sovereign nations and they undermine, threaten, refuse to recognise and seek to destroy democratically elected governments like they are in , Syria , Iraq , Gaza, Palestine,” the message said.

“They support dictators as long as they are fulfilling US, EU & NATO interest in the region like they did in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. You speak of Freedom of speech and freedom of expression but you remain silent in the face of a people desire to seek freedom to exist — unless those people are Israeli Zionists!

“Hypocrisy of this magnitude will bring the chickens home to roost and not peace and security as is your mantra!” the message further stated.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information Technology Camillo Gonsalves could not be reached for a comment on the posting.

On June 29, 2014, Islamic State proclaimed itself to be a Worldwide Caliphate, the concept of a single theocratic one-world government.

The new name and the idea of a caliphate has been widely criticised and condemned, with the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups all refusing to acknowledge it.

As caliphate, Islamic State claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide and that “the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas”.


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RMPS react to lack of results on raids in Davy Hill Community


Media and villagers search for answers and information

During their first in a new series of monthly the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) management was asked for reaction to the Governor’s suggestion that there were no results or arrests made in the recently and much criticized Davy Hill raid operation on January 30, 2015.

Commissioner Steve Foster first addressed this issue and said as follows: We have carried out a number of operations in areas Carrs Bay, Davy Hill area and they have been successful. We have made arrests, we have seized drugs, we have taken persons drugs off the street and we will continue to do that.”

Directing his next comment to the actual question, he offered. “Not every operation may come out with an arrest because we are working on intelligence and it’s not all the time that information or intelligence would be 100% correct and or persons may be forewarned that the police are on their way and they may have changed operations, so they are gathering intelligence and we are gathering intelligence. So if their intelligence give them ideas, then they operate on their intelligence and we operate on ours.”

They were asked whether they have had any positive results as described in previous raids in Davy Hill and the Deputy Commissioner Thompson explained, “…the success of an operation doesn’t necessarily hinge on an arrest, because during an operation there are lots of observation that can be made, there are lots of intelligence, information and intelligence can also be gathered so that would lead to futuristic plans and also operations.”

He further explains. “we really should not be looking at that, that’s not how we look at it from our training… we would have done operations, it may not necessarily lead to an arrest of a person or persons or seizing of illegal drugs but by virtue of the fact that we would have gathered additional information and intelligence, in that light it is a success for us.”

The command was further quizzed about the operation being discussed as to its preparation and the lack of information provided by media upon learning about it; the fact that a subsequent press release referred to concerns dating back from 2010 and the statistical analysis they presented.

The release covered much of what was repeated at the press conference. It stated: “The mandate to tackle crime and arrest the fear of crime is that of the Royal Montserrat Police Service. Our statistics show that there has been an increase in marijuana and cocaine interdiction bound for Montserrat. Likewise law enforcement officials intercepted several packages of illicit drugs which were being exported from Montserrat. It is therefore incumbent that the Police Service intensifies its initiatives to arrest the prevalence of illicit drugs and other crimes.”

Similarly, the release said: “In executing these responsibilities, the organisation will employ the necessary strategies and tactics that will demonstrate professionalism in the way it carries out these functions.

We act on information and intelligence to guide our operations. This is done through extensive analysis to determine the accuracy before they are executed.”

The foregoing is exactly what the media and other concerned persons had been questioning. As photos show at the time of the operation, the press is at odds trying to get information, with children and others in the vicinity looking at officers seemingly on alert heavy protected and armored. Based on the information in the release and at the press conference, already the speculation was that the exercise was more one for training. That seems not farfetched on the knowledge that the RMPS is in search for competent officers from among its ranks to fill the vacancy of Superintendent and that person’s replacement. However, the Deputy and the Acting Superintendent Kirwan responded:

The Deputy led off, noting that we raised the point of the ‘humanitarian aspect’. “…intelligence is perishable, it has a shelf life and as a result you are likely to find that the Intel that you get this morning would change by this afternoon or change within minutes time. As a result that may very well impact one way or the other on your overall operation,” adding, “I just wanted to make that point that we do what we call risk assessment.”

“We have to take into consideration all the issues that we would have raised, the humanitarian side, the impact on communities, the impact on the individuals, the impact on who are actually goanna be on the ground and also and very critical too, the impact on the organization.”

This he said is, “because we have to ensure that when we go out and do something it has to be done professionally and that what we strive for.”

They top officers said that these operations, “they are very detailed, they are guided by what we call operational orders and as you will have realized it is always going to be evolving.”

In the end the RMPS managers said they will take the issues on board. “…the point that you have raised again is something that we would take on board and we will continue to look at, even though we are doing it and looking at ways and means of improvement.

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RMPS face the media

RMPS reports on crime and challenges at first new monthly press conferences


Ag. Superindent Kirwan, Deputy Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Foster

Top Management of Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) on Friday 20, 2015 held a press conference, the first for 2015 and for quite some time and since the departure of Canadian, Deputy Bradley Siddell.

Citing that this was to be the first of regular monthly press conferences, Commissioner Steve Forster, Deputy Commissioner Charles Thompson and Assistant Superintendent (acting) Bennett Karwin faced ZJB and The Montserrat Reporter media members and spoke on the challenges, weaknesses and strengths of policing in Montserrat as well as answered question from them during.

In his introduction Police Commissioner Steve Forster noted community policing as being top priority on the agenda for the men and woman in uniform in 2015 .”We attended held a number of village meetings; in the Davy Hill area, and also the Lookout community group.” he said, where they shared and discussed with the groups.

Having recently published the comparative crime statistics for 2014, Mr. Foster spoke to the consistent overall decline in crime during the past five years alluding to statistics from 2010 to 2014 presented by the Police Service in January 2015. The chief cop made special reference to 2012 as a challenging year for the police service.

But the police reported that while there was a general decline in crime and violence on the island there was still a 13% increase in major crimes. However, the commissioner continued to stress it’s not a “concern figure” since, “we continue to enjoy peace and safety on island.”

There was a 30% increase in drug related arrests, but again the Commissioner noted for the benefit of the public, “this is not an indication that there is more drugs on the streets of Montserrat.”

Securing of the coastal borderlines and the exclusion zone as usual came up for discussion. This, continues to be a challenge for the police according to the Commissioner, but he said that during the 2015 budgetary talks with DIFID there was urgent emphasis on the need for security equipment both in sea and on land, as he cited the inadequacy of the current coast guard vessel which simply can’t meet the work load placed on it. He praised Governor Adrian Davis for adding to the emphasis of the urgent needs for these equipment during the budgetary talks.

RMPS face the media

RMPS face the media

The Governor during his February press conference touted that it is not his sole responsibility to obtain financial support for the police equipment and the conduct of their affairs. He said he worked cooperatively with the Government. “… that exception is a rather large exception, like everything else. I mean it’s not my sole responsibility – it is according to the Constitution but it’s something that we try and workout cooperatively in terms of development which is the Government’s main priority.”

He saw the circumstances as developmental. He said, “we all accept that development depends on a low level of crime and keeping that kind of reputation that Montserrat has. Iit’s a shared objective it does need a budget.” He added that one of the particular preoccupations, “which we’re going to have to discuss is the longstanding issue of a proper replacement for Shamrock which we need to do.”

At the close of his introduction, almost out of the blue, and as an introduction to the recent much talked of police operation at Davy Hill, Foster said: “I would like to highlight here that there are three arms of Government, there is the executive, the judiciary and the administrative and we all have our rolls and functions and will leave it there.”

The media led off the statement and the Commissioner seemed hard pressed to respond under which of these three arms he was controlled. At first he responded that he served independently but finally admitted he reported to the Governor who had responsibility for security and the justice system.

The Davy Hill operation then held centre stage continuing into the press conference, as the officers noted that of the two page press release issued by the police, only two short paragraphs actually dealt with it. (See report in this issue on page

The police management team also confirmed that contrary to responses that the police had little to do with the new mode of vehicular licensing procedure the Police Service was involved in the process from since its inception. They apologised for information previously provided by officers.

At the close the management team emphasised that despite the many challenges the law men says it’s their goal to maintain the peace and safety enjoyed on Montserrat and that they will continue to carry out operations to maintain this.

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