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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending October 6th, 2006

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A new wage and fringe benefits agreement was signed yesterday between the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association and the Ministry of Finance. Among other concessions, the agreement allows doctors to practice privately outside of regular working hours. The JMDA feels that is a major victory, and went a long way toward the parties arriving at a settlement. The JMDA and the Ministry will set up a monitoring committee to ensure that doctors who work in private practice follow guidelines. Periodic reviews and performance evaluations will take place throughout the life of the new contract. The doctors will also receive a 22 percent salary increase over two years, an increase in emergency duty allowance for working overtime, and an incentive allowance for doctors who are not scheduled to work overtime. The parties had been in negotiations for five months, with the doctors asking for a 76 percent salary increase.

A recent flare-up in political violence in sections of the Corporate Area has the Peace Management Initiative and the police keeping a close eye on other communities where political tensions could boil over. The expectations of a general election have triggered violence in both Olympic Gardens and Mountain View, and have raised the specter of political violence in other war-torn communities in the Corporate Area and a few rural communities. Most areas are calm at present. Among those on the watch list are the communities of Grants Pen in north St. Andrew, Tel-Aviv in central Kingston, Kintyre, Red Hills Road, Bull Bay and Spanish Town. In some of these communities, gang feuds have left 20 people dead over the last year, and the fear is that the violence could shift into political mode with an election looming.

Police netted the decade’s largest marijuana find in a joint operation between narcotics police and Operation Kingfish on Friday. An intelligence-led operation was conducted among two houses, where more than 7,000 pounds of compressed and packaged marijuana were seized. This is the second large seizure in a week, coming after Tuesday’s find of almost 6,000 pounds that police had then described as “the largest single find over the past decade.” One man was taken into custody at the Friday raid, but the main suspect is still at large. Police say the recent finds are indications of an ongoing crackdown on the marijuana trade. Pharmaceuticals also were found in one room, which are being analyzed.

The Prince of Wales, working with the government of Jamaica, is set to unveil a large housing development plan for Trench Town, according to the British press. Through his architectural charity, The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, Prince Charles has drawn up plans to redevelop the community by replacing concrete high-rise buildings with traditional lime-washed single story houses surrounded by palm trees. The charity was established to teach and demonstrate principles of urban design and architecture that put people and their communities at the center of the design process. According to the charity’s website, more than 3,000 people will benefit from the redevelopment. Construction of the first street could begin as soon as December. The foundation will fund a row of 20 homes.

The online Automated Motor Vehicle System, which promised faster service, failed yesterday at the Inland Revenue Department and Tax Collectorate at Cross Roads, St. Andrew. Introduced by the government in February, the aim of the automated system is to reduce the time it takes to process motor vehicle transfers and registration. The system was introduced at the Cross Roads office last week. No fewer than 100 people were inside the small office yesterday trying to get their vehicle registration processed, some waiting for more than three hours, with only two cashiers collecting money. Customers voiced their frustration, stating there was not adequate information shared about the changes, and no one was on hand to offer information. A public relations official asked for patience while plans to place adequate signage are implemented. A bigger space is also being scouted.

The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party yesterday accused the governing People’s National Party of using state funds of up to $31 million from the Nigerian oil deal, to finance the party’s annual conference last month. The government denies the claim. Opposition members walked out of the House of Representatives during a censure motion debate, and made the accusations shortly afterward. Bruce Golding released findings of transactions which he said were made to an account in Jamaica known as CCOC Association. Two checks equaling $30 million were issued payable to SM Services. Golding claims the checks were deposited by an international company based in the Netherlands which was engaged to carry out the lifting and trading of oil from Nigeria on the country’s behalf. Golding has called for the resignation of the entire government.

The Chairman of Carnival Cruise Lines has written to the governments of the Caribbean requesting an urgent meeting with them and United States authorities. The request follows a move by the U.S. Congress to delay the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative new passport requirements until June 1, 2009, for cruise passengers traveling to the U.S. from the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada or Bermuda, but still requiring U.S. citizens traveling by air to those regions to have a passport by January 8, 2007. The decision reportedly gives the cruise lines an unfair advantage over land-based operators and airlines that fly to the Caribbean. Regional tourism interests have been predicting that the decision will have a devastating effect on the region.

The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce criticized a $31 million campaign contribution made by the Dutch oil trader Trafigura Beheer to the governing People’s National Party. The Chamber says the gift helps to reinforce the perception of a culture of corruption in Jamaica. The JCC put its support behind calls for legislation governing contributions to political parties and said an interim code of conduct should be put in place ahead of the next general election. Given that an election is thought to be imminent before year-end, there is no time for the draft and debate of such legislation, so the chamber is asking both parties to agree to a code of conduct regarding contributions. Party spokesmen insist nothing was wrong with accepting the contribution.

Atlanta theatre-goers will be given generous servings of the comedy and drama Hot Spot, presented by the Sunshine Theatre Company of Florida and Caribbean Promotions of Atlanta. The show, sold out in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, will take place at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. Basil Dawkins is considered the best Jamaican playwright, with the show receiving five nominations for the International Theatre Institute’s Actor Boy awards. It also won the Gold Medal for Creative Writing from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. The play is set in the kitchen of a small mom and pop restaurant and focuses on their personal and business struggles when they hire a new chef. Hot Spot is sponsored by Jamaica National Money Transfer and Air Jamaica.

Past prime minister of Jamaica and former leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, Edward Philip George Seaga is scheduled to speak on the issue of “The Folk Roots of Jamaican Cultural Identity” in New York this month. Seaga is set to present the Caribbean International Network’s 2006 lecture on October 20th in Harlem. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the Jamaica constitution and is also a noted scholar and a distinguished fellow of the University of the West Indies. He was prime minister of Jamaica from 1980 to 1989. He has been a lifelong champion of the country’s great influence on global culture in the areas of religion, literature, food, music and dance.

Jamaica’s double Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell may have to find a new coach soon. The man who guided her to success at the 2004 Olympic Games was handed a prison sentence on Monday. Lance Brauman was sentenced to six months in prison with the same amount of time under house arrest following a scandal involving academic integrity and fraud at Barton County Community College in the U.S. between 1995 and 2003. Brauman was convicted on the felony charges in mid-July and resigned from the University of Arkansas shortly after the verdict. Reportedly the scandal involved paying athletes through federal and school work programs. Brauman helped a number of Jamaicans attend Barton County Community College over the years.

A group of high-ranking Jamaican government officials are scheduled to address the Jamaican community in Manhattan and the surrounding area on matters related to conducting business transactions in Jamaica later this month. The forum is “Outlook for the Future: Doing Business in Jamaica” organized by the Jamaica National Building Society. The group will include representatives from the Registrar General’s Department, the National Land Agency, the Customs and Excise Department, the Passport and Immigration Office and organizers of World Cup Cricket 2007. The forum is part of an effort to facilitate dialogue between key decision-makers in Jamaica with Jamaicans overseas.

In order for Jamaica to advance to the next round of the Digicel Caribbean Cup being held at the National Stadium, they will have to dramatically improve their performance. The Reggae Boyz meets Haiti today while St. Vincent and the Grenadines tackle St. Lucia. Jamaica turned in an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to St. Vincent on Friday night and is tentatively in second position with three points, the same as the St. Vincent team. Haiti leads the group with the maximum six points after mauling St. Lucia 7-1, who still has no points. Jamaica’s team was booed throughout the game, with fans cheering the St. Vincent team. The team’s coach feels a win over Haiti is entirely possible and plans to have the team play more aggressively but with no major changes.

Jamaica lost out at the Digicel Caribbean Cup and according to their coach it was due to not being physically fit or able to maintain their momentum for 90 minutes during the five-day tournament. Jamaica played well during the first 45 minutes against St. Lucia in the opening game, holding a score of 4-0 by halftime. But from there it was downhill, with the team suffering a loss to St. Vincent and the Grenadines with a score of 2-1. Fans turned against their team and began cheering the opponent. In their game against Haiti the team performed well in the first half, but then fell apart again in the second half, with fatigue setting in. Jamaica ended with six points from three gains, with Haiti topping the group with a goal difference of plus eight. Jamaica was ultimately eliminated because they scored fewer goals than St. Grenadine.

Yesterday offered the second day of fishing for the Port Antonio International Marlin tournament. The vessel No Problem tagged and released two marlin today adding to their tally of one on Monday and giving it the overall tournament lead. Bye Pass, La Nadine, Precious Cargo and One Love each tagged one marlin, putting the day’s total at seven, below the prior day’s count of 12. Three days are left in the competition, with hopes that the count will surpass last year’s 37, the best overall result in nine years.


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

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Written by Staff Writer