JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending July 28th, 2006

Yesterday the government amended legislation relating to rape, incest and other sexual offenses. The changes to the bills will make incest offenders punishable with a life sentence and will allow sexual intercourse without consent in a marriage to be classified as marital rape. The bills were originally discussed in 1995 but failed to pass through a joint select committee of Parliament. The bills will afford more protection to vulnerable people, including children and women. Other changes include making rape a gender-neutral offense, providing a statutory definition of rape and a definition that will include various acts in the definition of rape. The bills are to be debated in the next session of the Senate.

Two boys pleaded guilty to four charges of indecent assault in the case involving a church deacon. The two were granted bail of $100,000 and will report back to court on July 25 for sentencing. The former deacon, 46-year-old Donovan Jones was held without bail until the same day, as was the other young man being held responsible for the crime. The two who pled guilty face up to three years in jail for each count. In addition, the prosecution has added to the charges being faced by the two men still in jail to include counts of indecent assault, assault with intent to rape and others.

The JLP boasts of having a well-oiled election machinery in place and believes the time for a General Election is now. But People’s National Party president and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says the election will be called at the appropriate time and not sooner. Political commentators are predicting an election will be called for soon, but Simpson Miller responds that the election is not due until next year and that it will be called when she deems it is time. The JLP has made numerous comments that the PNP “dynasty” will end once the election is called. That party has not held the position of power since 1989.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller will soon announce her plan of action regarding government officials and agencies responsible for cost overruns in the Sandals Whitehouse hotel project. Simpson Miller announced that she would take preliminary actions while the government waits for the results of a forensic audit report, which should be forthcoming in the next month. The Cabinet has already examined the report submitted by Contractor General Greg Christie last week. The report accused government agencies and officials of committing flagrant breaches of procurement procedures on the project that wracked up millions in cost overruns. The Contractor General has recommended that the legislature act decisively to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions.

Urban Development Corporation Chairman Dr. Vin Lawrence resigned from all government boards and committees he was associated with yesterday, following harsh criticism in a report submitted by Contractor General Greg Christie. The report puts responsibility for major cost overruns in the Sandals Whitehouse hotel project at Lawrence’s door. The resignation seems to confirm that he had been asked to step down in the wake of the allegations of breaches in government procurement procedures. The allegations in the report are still being investigated through a forensic audit which will be reviewed by the Cabinet upon its completion. The other members of the UDC board were asked to stay on until the report is complete, in order to answer any questions raised.

An era has ended as the Jamaican cultural icon, the Honourable Mrs. Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately known to the world as ‘Ms. Lou’, collapsed and died today at the Scarborough Grace Hospital in Toronto, Canada. She was 86. Jamaicans worldwide mourn the passing of ’s First Lady of comedy.

The Portmore Citizens’ Advisory plans to up the pressure being applied in its protest against the controversial highway toll. A boycott rally is scheduled for next Monday as organizers press for more negotiations with the government regarding the current cost to use the newly-opened toll road. A lack of response on the part of the government could lead to heightened protest actions. Members say the boycott could continue indefinitely until the government agrees to negotiate. In the meantime, drivers use an alternative route rather than pay the current fee. The planned rally will highlight the impact of a $60 toll on commuters from the community. At the same time, organizers are quick to dismiss claims that the matter is political, stating that the group is not a political organization.

The House of Representatives adopted a resolution yesterday that will provide a salary increase for Members of Parliament in line with increases granted to public sector servants under the second Memorandum of Understanding. A special committee had examined proposed salary increases and made recommendations which were outlined yesterday. Opposition members raised a pay-for-performance approach that ruffled feathers. This caused the discussion to turn angry. Another recommendation of the committee was the establishment of a Permanent Parliamentary Compensation Committee to look at salaries, allowances, pensions and reimbursements.

Executive members of the Nurses Association of Jamaica and officials from the Ministry of Finance have been called to an emergency meeting in an effort to avoid any further action by disgruntled health care workers that stayed off the job yesterday. Patient care was affected at several hospitals across the island as nurses demanded better wages from the government. The Health Ministry reports the situation has now reached a crisis level, with some shifts totally without staff at some hospitals. The Health Minister has appealed to the nurses to return to work and continue their negotiations. The situation has been ongoing for several months, and the nurses say they will not return until the situation is addressed. A 22 percent increase over two years has been offered, but the nurses rejected that offer.


Jamaica raised their medal tally to 10 at the Central American and Caribbean Games currently underway in Cartagena, Colombia, with the acquisition of three medals on Friday night. Teenage swimming wunderkind Alia Atkinson continued to make her presence known as she added two more gold medals to her personal war chest of four, and Jamaica’s gold tally to six. She won both the women’s 50 meter breaststroke and the 200 individual medley. The team now holds six gold, three silver and one bronze, and are in seventh place overall in the standings. In cycling, the men’s team failed to advance to the road race, while both the women’s and men’s squash teams failed to progress to the next round of their event. Boxer Nicholas Walters remains in the hunt for a medal, competing last night for a position in the quarterfinal.

Columbia bested the Reggae Boyz 6-0 last night at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, forcing the team to bow out with heads hung low. Jamaica’s Under-21 team had defeated Haiti in their opening game, but lost to Costa Rica and then was pushed out of the Games at the quarter-final stage. Jamaica trailed 0-2 at half-time and it only got worse from there as they let in four more goals in the second half. On a happier note, featherweight boxer Nicholas Walters defeated his Guatemalan opponent to advance to the semifinal round in his weight division. Currently, Jamaica’s medal tally remains at 10.

Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson shone at yesterday’s DN Galan track and field meet in Stockholm, Sweden. Powell swept by the field, winning in 9.86, his eighth time under 10 seconds in three months. The time broke the stadium record and earned Powell a one-ounce diamond. In another winning display, Simpson blew away a top-class field, winning in 22.00, equaling her personal best and season best. Only three Jamaicans have gone faster. In the women’s 100m hurdles, Brigitte Foster-Hylton finished second in 12.72.

The Miami Heat basketball team is making a four-day visit to Jamaica beginning today as part of its “Shoot for the Stars” book and basketball clinic. The clinic is being held at the Montego Bay Community College in St. James. The Heat Dancers, Xtreme Team and other team personnel will be holding a press conference at the college and will also visit the Cornwall Regional Hospital to lift the spirits of sick children being treated there. The tour, which is a part of the team’s outreach program, is geared towards teaching basketball fundamentals while at the same time stressing the importance of reading.

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