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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending July 21st, 2006

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The Jamaica Teachers Association rejected the government’s latest offer regarding salaries, and threatened disruptions to the education system if their demands are not met by August. Delegates voted yesterday, and 92 percent came out against the government offer during a special conference yesterday. The president of the JTA called the offer an insult to teachers. The group will seek a meeting with the Finance Minister to work out an agreement that is satisfactory to the island’s educators. The current offer is a 14 percent to 16 percent increase in the first year for principals and vice principals, and between 14 and 22 percent for teachers in the first year. The teachers are demanding a 30 percent increase, saying that most of it will go back to the government in the form of taxes.

Residents of Cave Valley are demanding that the Ministry of Health conduct an investigation into the circumstances of a pregnant woman’s death in the Mandeville Hospital on Monday. The residents are claiming that negligence at Percy Junor Hospital, where she was first treated, led to the woman’s death. According to the protesters, Shaunette Campbell was not attended to because nurses were staging a protest of their own over wages. Hospital officials deny any wrongdoing, saying the woman received excellent care until she was transferred to Mandeville.

The Portmore toll road opened officially yesterday, and within minutes buses and chartered taxis announced fare hikes of $10 and $150 respectively. Taxi fares increase immediately while the bus hike will go into effect on Monday. The fare increases were considered inevitable by the Portmore Citizens’ Advisory Council, which has been boycotting the toll road in protest over the rate. Bus customers will now have to pay $80 per ride, while taxi passengers will pay a basic rate of $650, up from a minimum of $500. Distance and number of passengers factor into the way the companies set prices, and of course the toll fee has had an impact. According to TransJamaican Highway, approximately 2000 electronic tags have been sold already, providing a discount for frequent users.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has ordered an investigation into Saturday’s island wide electricity blackout. Jamaica was left in darkness beginning at 4:15 Saturday, with the entire power system shut down. Some residents went without power for nearly 10 hours. So far, information shows that a trip on the 69 kilo volt Bogue-Duncans Transmission line in St. James and a voltage collapse on major parts of the power system were what led to the disruption. The independent power companies that would normally provide back-up supply also played a part in the electricity disruption. The investigation will involve a thorough examination of the sequence of events to determine the cause of the failure.

Residents boycotting the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 found themselves in a wicked traffic situation yesterday, with considerable delays on the Mandela Highway, the designated alternate route. The toll road had its own set of problems at the same time, with confusion about the electronic tags and assigned lanes causing a back up that went on for more than a mile. Motorists honked their horns in frustration, while a spat between a man who attempted to pay the $60 toll in 25 cent coins, a policeman and a toll booth operator added to the confusion and snarls. The gridlock was eased in about 20 minutes after highway personnel opened an additional two toll booths. The build-up was blamed on motorists who had electronic tags but were driving into the wrong lanes, then reversing and joining the correct lane.

Yesterday found more than 2000 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force off the job in order to push the government for an increase in salary and benefits. Reportedly, the Minister of Finance and Planning has since requested a meeting with the Central Executive of the Police Federation and it has been scheduled for Tuesday. Even so, word from some delegates of the Federation was that the situation was likely to intensify into today. In the Kingston West Division, at least 14 people did not report for duty, but patrols were still out and stations were manned. In the St. Catherine South Division, 40 rank-and-file officers failed to show up for work, forcing superintendents to rely on contingency plans. Opposition spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith urged the government to accelerate negotiations in order to ease the personnel problems.

A damning report by Contractor General Greg Christie regarding the controversial Sandals Whitehouse construction project has come under fire from the chairman of the Urban Development Corporation. Christie defends his report and stands by its findings. A senior official of the government reports that members of the UDC board have been asked to resign by Friday. Dr. Lawrence, the chairman of the UDC, could also step down from all government boards. In the report, Christie accused government entities of committing breaches of procurement procedures and recommended that the legislature ensure public bodies and public officials who breach procedures are held accountable.

Four policemen who were charged with the murders of two senior citizens were freed by a jury yesterday. The killings occurred in Flankers, St. James in October of 2003. Prosecutors were vigorous but lacked enough critical evidence to result in a not guilty verdict on counts of both murder and manslaughter. After the deaths, angry residents blocked roads protesting against the shootings. The government has accepted civil liability for the deaths of the two men. Witnesses testified that gunmen fired at police first, starting a gun fight that caught a car in the crossfire. The two men were taxi driver and passenger, respectively.


Jeremy Wariner, world and Olympic champion, became the fourth fastest 400 meters runner in history yesterday, with a time of 43.62 seconds at the Golden League meeting in Rome. Asafa Powell was deterred from his plan to take sole ownership of the 100 meters world record, with a time of 9.85. The time equals Maurice Greene’s meet record set in 1999. Powell said he as happy with the win even without the record, who shares the world record of 9.77 with American Justin Gaitlin. Sherone Simpson fended off Marion Jones in the women’s race with a time of 10.87. Jones finished with a 10.91 time, her best of the season. Simpson is the fastest woman this year. Wariner and Powell remain in the running for a piece of the IAAF $1 million jackpot. The six-meeting Golden League series resumes in Zurich in August.

Jamaica won three out of four meter sprint titles yesterday at the XVII Central American and Caribbean Junior Track and Field Championships being held in Port-of-Spain. The team leads the medal standings as of yesterday with 24 overall medals, with 13 gold, five silver and six bronze to their credit. Sonita Sutherland broke the girls’ Under-20 400m championship record with a victory of 51.57 ahead of her teammate Bobbie-Gaye Wilkins, who finished with 53.19. In the boys’ Under-17 division, Ramone McKenzie defeated the others in the race with a time of 47.59. In the 100m hurdles for girls’ Under-20 class, newcomer Kittiany Clarke finished first with a 13.60 time.

The Tropics Hockey Club claimed the 2006 Open League title at the Mona astro turf on Saturday, a nice follow-up to their Premier League win last year. The double header resulted in a 1-1 draw in the first game with St. Andrews, but the Tropics beat them 1-0 in the second game, resulting from a goal in the last minute of regular play. Both teams entered the finals tied with seven points. A Tropics player considered the game fairly competitive and commended St. Andrews for a game well played. In the runner-up match, Sharpes took third place by defeating the Raiders 3-0.

Jamaica has secured two medals so far at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia. The team achieved a silver medal in the women’s 200 meter breaststroke. Alia Atkinson finished in 2 minutes, 38.31 seconds behind Mexico’s Adriano Marmolejo, who clocked a meet record with 2:34.56. The second medal came in the keirin cycling category, with another silver. Keirin is an event involving riders who complete a sprint after a certain number of laps behind a motorcycle pacer. Ricardo Lynch brought home the silver for Jamaica, winning both his groups before finishing second in the final.

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

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Written by Staff Writer