Headlines      Issue Released January 7 2004


BWIA pilots detained in US

Officers held after names appear on 'no-fly list'

By Sandra Chouthi

Special to Indo Caribbean World

Port-of-Spain - The effects of 9/11 hit close to the homes of two national Trinidadian BWIA pilots last week with their detention in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on suspicion that they were terrorists. The pilots were BWIA first officer Rawle Joseph and captain Hugh Anthony Wight.

Wight was detained on December 23 in Miami and Joseph in New York on Christmas Day. The two were on their way back to Trinidad when they were detained. Their detention followed their names appearing on a no-fly list, which is circulated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US Department of Homeland Security. Joseph's and Wight's detention came amidst heightened alert in the US of a terrorist threat during the Christmas holidays. Passengers whose names appear on the list, which was created in 1990 and administered by the FBI but the Federal Aviation Administration and TSA overtook its responsibility last November, are required to go through additional security measures.

It was reported that BWIA had a copy of the no-fly list, but could not prevent its two pilots from being detained because it arrived too late. Clint Williams, corporate communications manager, said on December 30 that the airline received the revised list which included Joseph's and Wight's names from the US, but only after they were already deployed to their respective flights.

Joseph and Wight were cleared and returned home. Joseph, who arrived at Piarco on December 31, was received by Patrick Edwards, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also at Joseph's side was captain Roger Grell. Joseph, who said he told FBI agents he always carries a bible in his flight bag, spoke very little. "I don't want to be a star. I just want to go up Arima (home),"  said Joseph, a BWIA pilot since 1980.

Before his arrival to Trinidad, Joseph told a Newsday reporter in New York that the agents searched his bible "page by page."

Joseph was apprehended by Customs and Immigration at JFK international airport in full view of his crew and passengers.

Edwards said everyone was "happy to have the boys back home," adding that it was the best Christmas and New Year's gift for the families and the nation.

"The Ministry was working expeditiously to get them back home. It was very important," Edwards said.

Wight's name was also removed from the list.

The captain, who has been employed with the airline since 1973, returned to Trinidad on December 29. Wight was interrogated for almost 12 hours by the FBI and immigration authorities.

The pilots' detention has led to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding a full apology from the US government.

On December 30, the Ministry labelled the detention as "unwarranted, unjustified and severely damaging not only to their image, but also to the national airline of BWIA."

The Ministry is also asking for financial compensation for the airline regarding costs incurred and written apologies to both pilots, the government and the airline.

The detention of the BWIA pilots has led to the airline now preparing to put armed guards on selected flights into the US. The move comes after the US issued a directive on December 29. Williams said: "BWIA has always complied with security directives from the Federal Aviation Administration."

The call for air marshals on BWIA flights does not sit well with the Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TALPA). Its president, Rory Lewis, said: "I have my misgivings. It could be a good thing if properly controlled. Right now we do not have any leeway to have anybody with arms on board the aircraft, whoever they might be. So there is still a lot of ground that has to be gone over."



Security clamp down puts squeeze on immigrants


Toronto — Up to January 4, 2004,  a total of 48 people have been turned away from flights home to Canada, according to an immigration department official.

The inability of these person to re-enter Canada is due to new rules for permanent residents to re-enter Canada. The new rules require all permanent residents to produce the new Permanent Resident Card for re-entry and up to close to the deadline only 850,000 of the 1.5 million permanent residents have been issued a card.

Airlines were still not sure how to deal with the issue on New Year’s Eve, as some said they have not received clear instructions. An Air Canada spokesperson noted that a permanent resident without a PR card would not be allowed to board the aircraft.

An immigration official denied that those stranded were not given help, the official said that such person should visit the Canadian Consulate and be issued with supplementary travel documents to allow them to re-enter the country.

As the fallout from the September 11th terrorist attacks continue, the US has adopted stringent new measures in an effort to keep unwanted persons form their shores.

As of January 01, 2004 all visitors, students and workers excepting those from Western Europe, Canada and a few other countries would have to get in line to have their picture and fingerprints taken and matched against wanted terrorists.

The measures is aimed at keeping terrorists and illegal aliens out of the US.




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