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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending June 30th, 2006

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A Supreme Court judge yesterday set aside his order quashing the environmental permit for the Bahia Principe Hotel under construction in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. The order gives the hotel’s management the go ahead to complete the facility. On May 16 the judge had quashed the permit because he said some procedures were not followed by state agencies. According to Deputy Solicitor General Patrick Foster, the ruling is fair and balanced. The judge accepted evidence from hotel ownership that it would suffer hardship if the order was not quashed. He also referenced the construction being 85 per cent complete and the fact that the hotel owners had spent a minimum of US $64 million.

Some senior government officials have been charging personal expenses to government-funded credit cards and have even issued them to employees who are not eligible to use them. Other officials have been taking illegal foreign trips and letting the government foot the bill. According to sources, the problem has been ongoing, and how pervasive it is has been difficult to determine. Cards are being used without proper approval, and bank statements and receipts are not being presented for audit purposes. The cards are meant to pay hotel bills and per diem for authorized government travel, not for personal expenses.

Members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade say they are not prepared for this year’s hurricane season. The brigade is a critical part of the emergency workers that respond in the event of a natural disaster. The Acting Assistant Superintendent says the brigade is not equipped to deal with any major operations, especially during a hurricane. A lack of essential resources is hindering firefighters from operating efficiently. Poor working conditions also are contributing to the problem, including leaking roofs and the absence of showers and functioning toilets. In addition, firefighters are sharing protective uniforms, which does not meet national standards for protective gear.

A brother-sister team has been arrested in the kidnapping of an eight-year-old boy. Their arrest came after residents of the Old Harbour Glades area blocked the main road in the vicinity of the police station to protest the slow pace of the investigation. Eight-year-old Anthony Evans was taken to visit the brother and sister’s house. The mother left the house and when she returned later the boy was not seen, and she eventually reported the situation to Old Harbour police. When nothing was done, residents protested. Police say the investigation is ongoing and statements are being collected; in the meantime, the suspects will remain in custody.

A visibility hazard triggered by blazing cane fields near Highway 2000 led to a major traffic accident yesterday. The 10-car pileup left several people injured, with at least three reported as seriously injured. The accident occurred at approximately 1:30 pm in the vicinity of the White Water housing area in St. Catherine, on the eastbound lane of the highway leading to Kingston. Last December a similar fire led to a seven-car crash in the same area, and earlier this year firefighters were called to put out a blaze just a few kilometers down the road. Two large trucks and a passenger minibus were among the vehicles in yesterday’s crash. According to one victim, the accident occurred when the driver of a small van stopped suddenly upon reaching the area covered in thick smoke.

Air Jamaica’s George DeMercardo, reporter Janet Silvera, soca king Byron Lee and Sandals Montego Bay were all honored yesterday at the American Express “Salute to the Stars of the Caribbean” luncheon. The event was held in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel Association at the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference held in Miami. DeMercardo was named the CHA Allied Member of the Year while Silvera won the Overall Award for Excellence in Tourism Reporting. Lee was recognized for 50 years of dedication to the region’s music, and Sandals won the Caribbean Environmental Award.

The decomposing bodies of two missing women were found yesterday and pulled from a septic pit in Bull Bay, St. Andrew. The women bring the number of murdered females to 74 this year. The women were identified as 20-year-old Candice Williams and 22-year-old Phoebe Myrie. Both women were mothers of young children. An on-the-scene post-mortem examination revealed that the women died from multiple stab wounds. The women were found by a relative of Williams who had gone to the premises to search for her. The relative got help from a young friend and an adult to force open a pit at the back of the two-room house. The small lid of the pit had been sealed with concrete, which prompted the boy to look inside. Heavy duty equipment had to be used to open the pit so police could get to the bodies.

An announcement is due of the toll rates for the Portmore leg of Highway 2000, and tension is high as the looming rate increase has caused threats of a total boycott. Councilors from the Portmore Municipal Court voted five to four to accept a toll of $50 for Class One vehicles, and the same percentage for the rest of the classes when the toll comes into effect next month. The Portmore Citizens’ Advisory Council threatened that any price above $30 would result in a boycott of the toll road. Earlier this week Minister Pickersgill announced he would be publicizing the toll rates next week on Friday, July 7, less than a week before the toll road is slated to open on July 13. The notice of intention to make a toll order was published in newspapers on Tuesday. Citizens have been given seven days to make comments about the toll.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, a long-time supporter of women’s basketball, has ensured that Jamaica’s women’s team will be able to play in this year’s Centrobasket Championships, which begins in Mexico City tomorrow. The team earned the Caribbean championship a week ago, but found themselves scrambling to secure funding for their participation in the event. KFC, who were also major sponsors of the Caribbean Basketball Championships and the National Basketball League, announced that they would give a 60 per cent contribution to the total required for the trip, while other sponsors contributed the remaining 40 per cent.

A volley in the 98th minute took Argentina to a 2-1 extra-time win over Mexico and place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The two-time champion Argentines will take on German in the quarter-finals in Berlin on Friday. Germany beat Sweden 2-0 earlier today. Mexico was ahead in the sixth minute but the teams finished 90 minutes of regular time tied at 1-1. Argentina’s goal then put them into a ball control mode, with Mexico struggling to stay alive. Four years ago Argentina was knocked out in the first round, but entered this Cup as a favorite at the top of its group. Mexico has never reached the semi-finals, and their last appearance in the quarter-finals was in 1986.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced Saturday that each of the 24 members of the Soca Warriors will receive $1 million, as well as the country’s second-highest national award, the Chaconia Golf Medal, for their efforts at the FIFA World Cup in Germany. Of the $1 million, $750,000 will be given in shares and the rest in cash. Captain Dwight Yorke will receive $1.25 million. He was also conferred with the status of special ambassador for the republic. The prime minister said the team had proved that smallness had nothing to do with greatness.

Jamaica moved up to fifth place in the overall rankings of the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships in Puerto Rico after the second day of competition. Jamaica added four more medals to their tally of seven from the first day, thanks to a gold from Matthew Hilton, two silvers fro Brad Hamilton and Dominic Lee, and a bronze from Dominique Dawson. Hilton destroyed a 15-17 200 meter breaststroke field in a time of two minutes, 36.45 seconds. Lee earned the silver medal in the boys’ 18 and over 200-meter breaststroke after he finished behind Puerto Rico’s Jose Perez. Puerto Rico retains first place, with Trinidad and Tobago in second and the Bahamas rounding out the top three.


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

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