Pastor to be sentenced for sexual encounters with a minor

Fifty-six year old Jamaican Pastor Kenneth Blake will be sentenced on October 18 after he pleaded guilty Monday to having sex on several occasions with a 12-year-old child more than three years ago.

The Gleaner newspaper reported that for the last two years, Blake had f denied having sex with the child, who gave birth to a boy on November 30, 2017.

The pastor of the Harvest Temple Apostolic Church has now pleaded guilty to grievous sexual assault, having sex with a person under 16 years old and sexual touching when he appeared in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.

Blake was arrested and charged in August 2017 by detectives assigned to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse and the charges were filed against him after the child gave investigators a detailed statement in which she complained that Blake had sex with her when she was 12 years old.

She said that the first sexual encounter occurred in 2015, when the pastor gave her older sister money to go downtown and “buy some things” . She said after the encounter, the pastor began giving her gifts to keep quiet about their sexual encounters.

But when she became pregnant in August 2017 she confessed to her mother, but Blake denied the accusations, even after two DNA tests found that there was a 99.9 per cent chance he could not be excluded as the father.

The second test was done at a private institution chosen by Blake after he complained that the first test, conducted at the Government Forensic Laboratory, was “tainted”.

He told the court then that the accusations were part of an extortion attempt by the child’s mother.

St. Kitts government to table marijuana use legislation

The government of St. Kitts-Nevis says it plans to table legislation in Parliament on Tuesday allowing for the regulated and controlled use of marijuana for medicinal, scientific, religious and recreational purposes in the twin island Federation.

A government statement said that Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris will table the amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

“The far-reaching legislative amendments come after the Cabinet established a National Marijuana Commission to ascertain the views of citizens and residents on cannabis use,” the statement said, noting that the consultations, which were chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, had “found unanimous agreements for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Federation”.

It said that the Commission had also recommended a phased approach to the establishment of a marijuana industry and that the Cabinet adopted the Commission’s report on February 18.

But it noted that since then the High Court has ruled that some prohibitions on cannabis use outlined in the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, Cap 9.08, were too broad and inconsistent with the Constitution.

The statement said that the government has responded with amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

It quoted Harris as promising that his administration would give “special support and priority to locals interested in pursuing marijuana cultivation and trade within the confines of the law”.

Grenada wants a return of resident British High Commissioner

The Grenada government says it is looking forward to the return of resident High Commissioner to its shores following the installation newly elected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a diplomatic note sent to the UK Foreign Office in Castries, Acting Prime Minister Gregory Bowen congratulated Johnson, adding that his victory marked a “defining moment in history that brings with it the challenge of charting a new relationship between Europe, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean that reflects fruitious equanimity while permitting democratic self-governance at home”.

He added that he was looking forward to continued growth in the UK/Grenada relationship and the soon return of a resident High Commissioner to the island.

“As a traditional partner of the UK, and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, I express the hope that our special relationship will continue to grow as manifested by the pending return of a resident commissioner to our shores and consolidate to our mutual benefit.”

Johnson, former UK Foreign Secretary won 92,153,votes which represents 66% to Jeremy Hunt’s 46,656. Voter turnout was 87.4% among 159,320 Tory party members .

Johnson is taking over the helm of the party and byextension the government from Theresa May who opted to step down after numerous unsuccessful attempts to get consensus, in the party and in Parliament, on a Brexit deal.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson promised to deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, all of which were his campaign mantra.

He says he will deliver Brexit by October 31st 2019.

LIAT cancels flights for “operational reasons”

Regional airline LIAT cancelled several flights on Thursday citing “operational reasons”.

The cash-strapped airline did not elaborate on the “operational reasons” but had recently warned several regional destinations that they had until March 15, to respond to the airline’s minimal revenue guarantee (MRG) proposals.

Under and MRG model, it is likely that a few flights may be cut if the government is not prepared to fund them with a guarantee with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves indicating that theoretically, several countries have no quarrel with the MRG.

The airline said that it was cancelling flights LI 374 from Barbados to St. Lucia; LI 375 from St. Lucia to Barbados; LI 337 from Barbados to Grenada; LI 338 from Grenada to Barbados; LI 769 from Barbados to St. Vincent and LI 770 from St. Vincent to Barbados.

“Affected passengers will be moved to other flights at no charge. Please contact our Reservations Call Centre or your travel agent for more information,” LIAT said in a brief statement posted on its Facebook page.

The announcement coincides with a meeting held in Barbados on Wednesday attended by Gonsalves and host Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Media reports said that the final decision on the future of the LIAT is expected later this week following the eight hour meeting that was attended by trade union representatives.

The reports said that officials have been asked to come up with a number of proposals to present to Mottley before weekend.

“A number of positions were explored and those present are to now get back to the governments later this week regarding the positions that were tabled,” the Nation newspaper Thursday quoted a  source close to the negotiations as saying.

Last week, the airline shareholders governments – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – said they were seeking to get Caribbean countries to contribute a total of US$5.4 million in emergency funding needed to keep the airline in the sky.

The pilots have already rejected a call from them to take a salary cut as the Antigua-based airline seeks to reverse its financial situation.

“Looking at the situation as it is right now, if we are to go forward doing the things that we are doing now, if we do not look at the scheduling, if we do not look at how we are going to generate the revenue going forward, we can give up 10 per cent now and we have no idea when the company will rebound for us to recoup that investment or even for them to start paying the staff back,” President of the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIAPA), Carl Burke said.

Last week, as she delivered her country’s national budget, Prime Minister Mottley told legislators the core elements of a new, sustainable model for the regional airline were already clear and that the restructuring is expected to dramatically cut the airline’s cost to the local taxpayer.

She acknowledged that LIAT is a tough issue to crack and that there are “more government shareholders in LIAT than in any airline in the world”.

OAS opposes Russian support of Venezuela’s Maduro

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a statement on Monday rejecting what it calls “recent Russian military incursion into Venezuelan territory”.

There are reports that over the weekend, Flightradar 24, a flight tracking site, showed the flight path of what it listed as a Russian airforce plane headed to Caracas.

Russian military aircraft sighted at airport near Caracas

A Venezuelan official later said the aircraft arrived in Caracas as part of ongoing military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela.

But the OAS statement issued on Monday afternooon said such activities were “not authorized by the National Assembly, as required by the Venezuelan Constitution, and which was done in support of a government that has been declared illegitimate”.

Luis Almagro, Secretary General Organization of American States (OAS)

The head of the OAS Secretariat Luis Almagro has been repeatedly calling for Maduro to step down and for there to be fresh elections in the country, citing humn rights violations, political corruption and fiscal mismanagement.

The council has held referenda seeking a majority vote to expell the South American country from the OAS and to approve more economic and political sanctions on the administration of Nicolas Maduro, which is being touted as illegitimate.

But the votes have been split with countries like Canada and the United States wanting to see sanctions imposed while most Caribbean countrires who depend of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil programme, opposed.

“The presence of military personnel and military transport constitutes a harmful act to Venezuelan sovereignty,” the OAS statement on Monday said.

“The foreign military personnel are an instrument of repressive intimidation in the context of a democratic transition led by the interim President Juan Guaidó.

“As previously stated in a declaration (E-080/18) and verbal note (OSG-555/18) of the General Secretariat, this military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution by not having been authorized by the National Assembly, as required by Article 187 paragraph 11.

“It is unacceptable that a foreign government engages in military cooperation programs with a usurping regime that has been declared illegitimate by resolutions and Inter-American law, which also threatens hemispheric peace and security.”