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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending September 15th, 2006

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Through the PetroCaribe agreement, the government has received US$5 million from the government of Venezuela to construct an ophthalmology clinic in the parish of St. Mary. The new clinic was announced today at the one-year anniversary celebration of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care program held at the Ministry of Health offices yesterday. Doctors from Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries will come to offer their skills and expertise at the clinic. Local doctors seem pleased with the announcement, saying that the eastern section of Jamaica has been neglected somewhat. Doctors did stress that money should be made available to equip and staff the other three eye care centers on the island. Since the Jamaica/Cuba eye care program began a year ago, more than 11,000 patients have been screened and 3,000 operations have been performed.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force is awaiting the installment of the new Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System that will help them conduct investigations faster and more efficiently. According to the Minister of National Security, the US $3.6 million system should be up and running by the end of this month and should bring great enhancements to the JCF’s crime-fighting efforts. The technology will assist the police in identifying convicted criminals with a police record within seconds. The police commissioner thanked the government for the technology and reminded the public that modernization and the use of technology are key elements of the JCF’s mission. The APFIS is already installed in downtown Kingston, with three more sites coming online in the next several weeks, including Montego Bay/St. James, May Pen/Clarendon and St. Mary.

The police high command says that an intelligence-driven approach to crime fighting has helped push down the country’s murder rate, with recent data showing a 26 percent decline for the month of August compared to the same time last year. According to data collected by the JCF, murders for August 2005 totaled 124, while this year 92 were committed. Shootings are down 20 percent for the same period. Compared to August 2004, the murder rate is down by nearly 40 percent. According to police officials the main element driving down the statistics is the coordination of the department around intelligence. Resources are using analysis to deter crime before it occurs. At the same time, opposition spokesman Derrick Smith urged caution, since last year was a record year for murders and there is still much to be done.

The Jamaica Teachers Association warned yesterday that classes could be disrupted this week if the government does not improve on the fringe benefits being offered for the island’s public school teachers. The decision will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for members of JTA this morning. Up to late last night the government did not present a new offer, following the rejection of the last one more than a week ago. The teachers had threatened action for the September 4 reopening of schools, but at the last moment decided to give the government until today to respond to their demands. Last week the government offered the teachers a $20,000 book, resource and technology allowance in year one and $22,000 in year two. This offer was rejected, with the JTA demanding a $24,000 book allowance in year two. The JTA is adamant that it will not settle the issue until the offer is improved.

Gun violence over the past 48 hours has rattled the western city of Montego Bay, claiming the lives of three men and injuring four others. The shootings began on Sunday night when gunmen killed a 34-year old shopkeeper and wounded three others, including a teenager, in the Salt Spring community. The armed men also set fire to two cars, one of which was stolen from a taxi operator whom they shot. Yesterday a 48-year old laborer was gunned down along Sun Valley Road in Glendevon. While investigators were at that location, news came of another murder in nearby Bottom Pen. Apparently shot in a family feud, 19-year old Andre Turner was killed. The killings raised the number of murders this year to 116 in St. James. The rash of killings came in the wake of decreased murder rates from last year and the announcement of the drop in crime.

A new survey by the Ministry of National Security and the Planning Institute of Jamaica has shown that there is a direct statistical link between increases in deportation and increases in the country’s murder rate. The survey showed a strong correlation in connection with deportation for sexual, drug and gun-related offenses. The survey also stated that 53 percent of deportees revealed they had been involved in criminal activities since their expulsion, including crimes not reported to police. Of those reporting their involvement with crime, 78 percent reported they had committed more than one crime. Deported criminal offenders are convicted of crimes in Jamaica at roughly the same rate as local criminal offenders, with women more likely to be involved in crime, especially drug-related activities. The government will be engaging in dialogue with the deporting countries to more effectively understand that the deportation does not rid them of the problem but worsens the problem for the receiving country.

The International Monetary Fund staff has told the government to slash the size of the civil service and pay those who remain more, if it wants to retain motivated and qualified staff. While the move would mean the collapse of the wage restraint agreement the government has with trade unions to help rein in the public sector deficit, the Fund suggests that the administration could close the fiscal gap by other revenue measures such as a wider tax net, expanding taxes on motor vehicles, and introduction of a capital gains tax. The government has responded that a large-scale cut in civil service workers is impractical at this time, given the emerging electoral season, when it is difficult to gain political and social consensus on sensitive issues.

Jamaican students continue to underperform in core subjects in the main regional assessment examination after five years in high school. Officials have expressed concern with the low mathematics and English language grades students have received in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams. New statistics show that only 32 percent of students taking the test this year managed to achieve grade one to three. The figure is a decrease of 4 percent from last year. In the case of English language, 46 percent achieved a grade one to three, down from 54 percent last year, and five percent below the regional average. Other countries whose students perform better are credited with spending more per capita on students and in providing more material for them to use in preparation for the test.


The 2006 Inter-Secondary School Association/Pepsi/Jamaica National Manning Cup season kicked off today with defending champion Calabar High School playing a tough game against St. George’s College at Jarrett Park. Four teams—Trench Town, Ascot High, Jose Marti and Haile Selassie—withdrew from the Manning Cup this week, while Oberlin High, in St. Andrew, will make their debut. St. Mary’s College returns after many years out of the competition, along with three-time winners Camperdown, returning after missing last season. Thirty-five teams will attempt to dethrone Calabar, with St. George’s the first to test the team. Most of the players from last year have been retained on Calabar’s team and others recruited to better their chances.

Local football in the Wray and Nephew National Premier League kicks off today, beginning nine months of exciting play. Newcomers August Town and Naggo Head start off the season with games against the defending champions and runners-up respectively. The top two teams of last year, Waterhouse and Harbour View, got an easy start to the season, while the new teams were likely hoping for a friendlier start. August Town appears to be the better-prepared team, with two players with recent NPL experience on their squad. Naggo Head has one player with experience, Layton Barrett, former Olympic and Tivoli Gardens player. In west Jamaica, Wadadah takes on Arnett Gardens while Village United meets Reno FC, with Village United expected to win.

The Jamaica Football Federation is debating the legality of calling an early election as was proposed by the board of directors Sunday night. The South Central Confederation proposed to the board that an early congress be held. According to JFF bylaws the congress is due to take place in 2007 but the proposed date of November was brought into question by the SCC, who pushed for an earlier date. A close vote brought into question the legality of the motion, with the general secretary stating that a three-quarters majority is needed for the motion to be passed. The vote was nine in favor, eight against. The SCC feels there is an article that allows for the early congress.

Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell has won the IAAF’s Performer of the Month title for August on the strength of his world record run in Zurich. Powell equaled his own world record of 9.77 seconds at the Zurich Golden League meet on August 18 and takes the monthly award for the second time this summer. He is now the second athlete this year to win the title twice, joining Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele. Powell’s management has announced that he has withdrawn from the 100-meter at next weekend’s meet in Athens, due to the long season he has had. He will still compete in the sprint relay for the Americas and will then withdraw to prepare for the 2007 season.

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

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Written by Staff Writer