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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending July 14th, 2006

The Portmore Citizens’ Advisory Council has announced a nine-day boycott of the toll-road scheduled to open on July 13. The announcement came in reaction to the Minister of Housing, Water, Transport and Works revealing the Portmore toll rates at a press briefing yesterday. According to the Minister, special arrangements have been made for the residents of Portmore, but an infrequent user of the road would have to pay $60. The Portmore leg of the highway coast US $100 million to construct, and would attract an average interest cost of US $12 million per year, creating the need to generate $2.1 million Jamaican per day. Motorists who use a special electronic tag can take advantage of discounts on the fee. The Advisory Council hopes that after the nine-day boycott the government would be open to further dialogue.

Policemen who use their guns recklessly and then cause the government to pay out large sums of money may in the future be held jointly liable for such acts and be forced to pay a portion of the claims brought. Human rights groups are calling for officers to help foot the bill for compensation when there is negligence or misbehavior, with a proportional amount due from the officer based on the level of negligence and culpability. While police are on record as opposing the idea, they do allow that as employees of the government they will have to abide by its decision in the matter. The director of communications for the police stressed that the goal is to reduce the homicide rate and major crime, which is down 26 percent for the month of May.

The founder of the Dayton Avenue Church of God chastised the whistle blowers in her congregation who reported the sexual molestation of a 14-year-old schoolgirl. The girl was being driven home in a van by a deacon of the church, who allegedly witnessed schoolboys assaulting her and did nothing during or after the attack. Church members dissatisfied with how the matter was being handled by the church leaked a copy of a tape of the assault to a local newspaper. Founder Ruby Kelly castigated those who leaked the tape, saying their actions had brought undue attention to the church. Kelly also criticized the media for exposing those involved in the molestation, saying the boys are being persecuted like various figures in the Bible. The deacon and two boys have been taken into custody.

Residents of Portmore have now agreed to a two-month boycott of the Portmore toll bridge. Last week, a citizens group had planned a nine-day boycott from the road’s opening. A meeting yesterday changed the timeline when residents agreed to the two-month ban. The group is also indicating that political representatives could be affected in the next election. Transport Minister Robert PIckersgill will report to the Cabinet on the reactions of Portmore residents to the announced toll, which is $60 per class-one vehicles.

Employees and security personnel at the Bahia Principe hotel construction site were involved in a riot at the Pear Tree Bottom location, causing an indefinite closure. Three people were injured with gunshot wounds and other wounds caused b y stones and other missiles. Sixteen people have been taken into custody by the police while others are being sought for questioning. A protracted dispute over wages erupted into violence when workers were told that they would not be paid outstanding wages until later this month. For several months the workers have been complaining that they were being underpaid and had suffered long delays in collecting their pay. The riot began when workers were met by padlocked gates and security personnel when they tried to enter the site to begin work.

The government had planned to initiate an IPO for its 20 percent of the Jamaica Public Service Company, but those plans went on hold as it considers how to respond to the surprise announcement by the Mirant Corporation that it will sell its majority stake in the light and power company. The Cabinet will now have to decide if and when they will sell their 20 percent, or perhaps buy the 80 percent Mirant currently owns. That is unlikely since the government’s policy has been to divest state companies. Opposition leaders insist the government should have an ownership stake in the light and power company. Mirant plans to offload its operations in the Caribbean and the Philippines and to repurchase up to 43 million of the company’s ordinary shares.

Continued protest action by the island’s nurses has placed Jamaica in a crisis in the health sector, forcing many hospitals to accept only emergency room cases. Medical doctors in the public sector plan to meet tomorrow to decide whether to accept the Government’s offer on wages and fringe benefits. Yesterday the nurses began their protest across from the Ministry of Finance and Planning offices, leaving hospitals to discharge non-critical patients and accept only emergencies. Overtime work by nurses had already ceased as early as Saturday, with the nurses saying they could not give more time because the government does not show them respect.

An agreement for a US $100 million line of credit has been signed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Brazilian President Luiz Lula de Silva, to facilitate the importation of machinery and agricultural equipment for the rehabilitation of Jamaica’s sugar industry. The credit assistance agreement forms part of an overall program for the production of ethanol and the introduction of a new, high-yield variety of sugar cane. The All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association says the line of credit will not assist with the divestment of the state-owned sugar factories which the government put up for sale last year.

Asafa Powell promised he would break the world record in the 100m by month’s end if France beat Brazil in the World Cup. Today he takes aim at that target in Paris. The sprinter bet his coach, a France supporter, that he could break the record. Powell currently shares the world record with American Justin Gatlin, and today said he is ready to mark a new time. He is racing at the Golden League meeting in Paris, and will likely face rival and training partner Michael Frater as well as Olympic champion Shawn Crawford of the United States. Meanwhile, Sherone Simpson, the world’s fastest woman for the past two seasons, is set to face 2000 Olympic triple gold medalist Marion Jones in the women’s 100m.

Italy brings quite the history to today’s World Cup final against France. The team is more recent champions and boasts a stronger resume at the tournament. France has bested Brazil, Spain and Portugal, teams with storied pasts and long unbeaten runs before facing Les Bleus. But Italy is the favorite among those betting on the match, with the French playing the continued role of underdogs. Italy, seeking their first championship since 1982, has been plagued by a scandal over alleged match-fixing that is tearing the national sport apart in their home turf. Still, the team is holding together well and playing brilliant soccer, so the match is sure to be one for the record books.

Italy won the World Cup yesterday for the fourth time when they beat France 5-3 on penalties after the teams finished with a 1-1 tie in a dramatic final that saw French captain Zinedine Zidana sent off in extra-time. Zidane, who opened the scoring with a penalty after seven minutes, was sent off nine minutes from the end of extra-time for a head butt into the chest of Marco Materazzi. Italy has become the second most successful team in World Cup history after Brazil, who has won five times.

Jamaica ended their attendance at the three-day North America, Central America and Caribbean Under-23 Championships in Santa Domingo with six medals. Ricardo Chambers and the men’s quarter-mile team secured gold medals while Wilbert Walker and Nickeisha Wilson scored a silver each and Isa Phillips and Clora Williams took bronzes. Chambers won the men’s 400m in a championship record 45.09 seconds. He later joined the men’s team to win the 4×400, with the United States and the Bahamas taking second and third places respectively.

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

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Written by Staff Writer