JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending June 23rd, 2006

The Senate approved a proposal yesterday that mandates that rape offenders receive a minimum 25-year prison sentence. Debate on the topic had been tabled in May, but was reopened yesterday in response to the high number of murders and sexual offenses against children. Senator Norman Grant believes sentencing of these offenders should not be left to the discretion of the judge, but should send a strong signal about protecting children. It also was suggested that a specific unit be established in the police force to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect. The unit would be expected to monitor all cases and drive preventative measures against the various forms of child abuse.

Alarms are being raised by human rights activists regarding the rise in the number of civilian killings by police, while the overall rate of murders is showing a downward trend for the year. Activists also point out that a small number of policemen are repeatedly involved in similar controversial incidents. Records show that 80 people have been killed by cops this year, with 23 fatal encounters last month alone. Since 1999, the cases brought toe the Bureau of Special Investigations has increased significantly, with 89 in that year, to more than 516 last year. Of cases brought to the BSI, 75% represent police shootings that have left 1066 people dead and 913 injured. Activist groups say this number is too high and argue that only a minority of policemen are committing to the offenses.

Hundreds paid tribute yesterday to slain policeman Corporal Lincoln Anthony Parker. In the midst of the mourning, National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips declared an assault against cop killers, saying no resource will be spared in the effort to catch those responsible. Parker, 31, was shot 22 times in his community of De La Vega City, St. Catherine on June 4, 2006. Politicians urged community members with information to come forward, and to fight back against criminals by turning them in. According to former Member of Parliament Heather Robinson, networks such as the Clansman Gang have held places like De La Vega City “imprisoned” with criminal activity.

The government is drafting new legislation to eliminate child labor locally, despite the progress made in reducing abuse of the current laws. Politicians say the country needs to do away with child labor altogether before it becomes a system pervasively abused. Remarks such as these punctuated the opening ceremony of national consultation on tackling child labor at a hotel in New Kingston yesterday. The program was organized by the International Labor Organization, which says that there was a reduction in child labor globally, with Latin America and the Caribbean only having five per cent of the region’s children engaged in employment. Locally, a 2004 survey reported that 2.2 per cent of the population, or 16,000 children between the ages of five and 17, were engaged in some economic activity, a slight decline from the 1998 survey. One piece of legislation being considered to eliminate the problem completely is the Occupational Health and Safety Act, currently with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

Jamaica and the United States signed an agreement yesterday that will allow U.S. customs officers to be stationed here to pre-clear cargo destined for America, resulting in savings for local exporters. Jamaica has recently emerged as one of the region’s fastest-growing trans-shipment ports, where a fast turnaround is good for business. Some local exporters have complained in the past that their perishable goods sometimes spoil at American ports waiting for inspection. This agreement will hasten the approval process and cut down on such incidents. The American customs officers will work in accordance with Jamaica customs guidelines and under the authority and supervision of the U.S. ambassador in Jamaica.

Communities Island wide were severely affected by the first day of the National Water Commission workers’ strike. In Portmore, St. Catherine numerous people were left without water from 5:00 pm on Tuesday. Communities in Portland including Anchovy, Dolphin Bay and Snow Hill were also affected, as well as the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. The NWC workers are striking due to dissatisfaction over protracted wage negotiations. Executives of the NWC met with union officials of the four unions involved met for several hours yesterday trying to resolve the stalemate.

A controversy is brewing over the appointment of a female principal at St. George’s College. The school board and the Parent-Teacher’s Association are in disagreement over the appointment, with parents and students at the school against the appointment of a woman for the role, noting that the process did not accommodate competent males who were interested in the post. Women’s Groups have expressed concern, with one saying “Using the sex of a person to determine their professional capability constitutes sexual discrimination.” The group contends that the public objection to the appointment provides young boys with “permission” to disrespect and abuse women because of society’s lack of recognition for women as role models in positions of authority and leadership.

The findings of the 2006 Knowledge, Attitude, Practices and Behavior Survey of Male Drivers in Jamaica finds that male drivers are responsible for a significant majority of road accidents in the country. Conducted by the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization and the National Road Safety Council, the study was started because 263 of 326 road fatalities last year were caused by male drivers. This year to date, 96 per cent of collisions were caused by young male drivers. According to the findings, only about half the country’s drivers were formally taught how to drive.


Brazil achieved a challenging 2-0 win over Australia yesterday in Group F of the World Cup. The team secured a spot in the second round with the victory, their ninth consecutive at the premiere soccer event. The five-time champions have not been eliminated in the first stage since the 1966 tournament in England. Adriano scored the first goal in the 49th minute while Fred scored the second goal a minute after replacing Adriano in the 88th minute. Brazil is seeking a record sixth world title, and played better than their last match against Croatia which netted them a 1-0 victory but also some commentary that they weren’t up to their usual standards. It was Brazil’s fourth win in six matches against the Australians.

Trinidad and Tobago dreamed of entering the second round of the FIFA World Cup, but their ambitions ended yesterday with a 2-0 loss to Paraguay. Brent Sancho turned a header against goalkeeper Kelvin Jack after a set piece, giving the South American team a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. The second goal came in the 85th minute from Nelson Cuevas, leaving a victory just out of Trinidad and Tobago’s reach. The result left the team with no wins in their Group B matches, after drawing with Sweden in their opening match and losing to England 2-0 in their second match. The B Group finished with England in the lead and Sweden coming in second.

West Indies cricket captain Brian Lara dispelled rumors that a strike by his team was imminent and said they are ready to improve in the third Test against India that begins today. West Indies Players’ Association president Dinanath Ramnarine criticized the West Indies Cricket Board for not yet providing the players with match or tour contracts for the ongoing series, which began in May. Ramnarine indicated that the players would have to look at all their options if the board failed to move quickly to resolve the problem. WICB president Zorol Barthley did indicate that discussions were underway to correct the situation.

While no major championships are on the world track and field calendar this year, the three-day National Senior and Junior Track & Field Championships beginning today hosts a roster of well-known names at the top of their events. Asafa Powell, Michael Frater, Aleen Bailey, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Danny McFarlane are among the athletes listed to compete in the event. It is expected that Asafa Powell will face Chris Williams, Yhann Plummer and Ainsley Waugh in the starter in the men’s 200m. World Championship silver medalist Michael Frater will concentrate on the 100m, which Powell will not be participating in. He is aiming for a sub-10 second time, which would be his first accomplishment of the kind.

The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.