JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending October 13th, 2006

The Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the Police Federation both signed new wage and fringe benefit contracts with the government yesterday after months of negotiations. The president of the JTA said the agreement is far removed from what it wanted for the island’s teachers, and stated that the signing does not indicate satisfaction with the offer. The new agreement calls for principals getting a 14 percent increase in salary in year one and eight percent in year two. Trained and pre-trained graduates will receive 16 percent in year one and eight percent in year two. Teachers will receive a travel allowance, and a book, resource and technology allowance. The new two-year agreement with the police will see them receiving a 19 percent raise in year one and a 6.5 percent raise in the second year.

Three of the island’s landmarks and heritage tourism sites will undergo major upgrades and beautification thanks to the allocation of $50 million for those purposes. The money is being made available in order for the clean-up to take place prior to the Cricket World Cup taking place here, and comes from the Tourism Enhancement Fund, which has committed to funding projects totaling $251 million since its establishment a year ago. The fund was set up with fees collected from visitors to the island at the two international airports. National Heroes Park will receive a $25 million upgrade; Devon House will receive a $20.2 million upgrade and Trench Town Culture Yard will receive a $4.8 million upgrade. Entrances to the city of Kingston will also benefit, with beautification projects funded by the TEF, including the roadway from the Manly International Airport.

The government has been ordered to pay a farmer more than $5 million with interest. The Supreme Court ordered the payment for Howard Genas, whose right leg was amputated due to negligence. Genas’ leg was amputated in September 1995 because of the negligence of the medical staff at the Black River Hospital in St. Elizabeth. Genas accused the hospital of negligence after his motorcycle accident that injured his right leg. He was later transferred to the Kingston Public Hospital, where his leg was amputated. The court found that Genas lost his leg because of a lack of care provided by the Black River Hospital defendants.

Jamaica’s Cricket World Cup promotional team swept into New York City on Friday, eager to assure the city’s Jamaican residents that they are welcome to come home for the event next year. New York hosts the largest population of Jamaicans outside the islands. A contingent of representatives fro the Jamaica Tourist Board, Air Jamaica and JAMPRO flew to New York to promote the event. Organizers admit that the event has presented major challenges but assured everyone that Jamaica will be ready and will make its citizens proud.

The former general secretary of the ruling People’s National Party was forced to resign his position for misleading colleagues about the Trafigura donation affair, but suggests that he will remain in the Senate, the unelected chamber of the Jamaican parliament. Telling reporters no one had asked him to resign that position, he stated he would remain in the Senate. The government is under pressure to provide further information on the scandal, with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce demanding full disclosure of the relationship of the government and Trafigura Baheer, a Dutch commodity trader. Opposition shadow finance minister Audley Shaw is also calling for a police investigation. Trafigura Baheer originally called the $31 million it deposited to a bank account controlled by supporters of the PNP payment for services, but is now calling the amount a political donation.

The forensic audit team investigating cost overruns in the Sandals Whitehouse project has said it found no evidence of fraud but has blamed the excesses on management deficit and failure to meet completion deadlines. The project amassed more than US $43 million in cost overruns. The audit team appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and stood by its report it submitted in August. The report claims poor management by the Urban Development Corporation caused many of the excesses, as well as the multiple roles of individuals involved. The members of the PAC questioned the possibility of fraud, but were assured no evidence of that had been found. One member told the group it boils down to people not performing what they were contracted to do. The audit team did state that it had difficulty obtaining vital information during its investigation, so there is possibility that there could be costs that escaped their audit.

Major crimes continued their downward trend last month, and Deputy Commissioner of Police Charles Scarlet credits this to the improved relationship between the police and the public. Scarlet said public support is important in the fight against crime and fuels the intelligence the police are able to gather. Major crimes for the month of September decreased compared to the same period last year, but murders did increase over August figures. There were 480 cases of major crimes in September, 31 percent less than the 698 cases reported in the same time frame last year. Major crimes include murder, shooting, rape, carnal abuse, robbery, break-ins and larceny. Police recorded 104 murders last month, 10 more than the 94 recorded in August. Compared to previous years, though, the murder rate is still decreasing.

Residents in Denham Town claim police shot indiscriminately in their town yesterday. When gunshots rang out in the western end of the city yesterday, it ended with police confirming that two people were shot and injured. Residents say that the number is higher. Police report that a shootout took place between gunmen and police. A police patrol was in the vicinity of St. Alburn Street and signaled a minibus to stop. Instead, men inside the bus began shooting at police. Police say two men inside the van were injured and two ran away. Residents say the story is a lie, with people claiming to be eyewitnesses saying that police fired on the unarmed men after they refused to stop. A group of women says the police pulled an injured youth from the van onto the sidewalk before shooting him several times. The Bureau of Special Investigations has begun a probe into the incident.

In Canada where she now resides, Nana McLean is well known. While many Jamaicans may not remember her name, she kept company with the likes of the late Joseph “Culture” Hill and Burning Spear in the late 1970s. She migrated to Canada to make a name for herself there, and now hopes that people in Jamaica will enjoy her new album and start to recognize her as an artist. Her new album, Break Through, is her first gospel record. It is an anthology of conscious reggae gospel lyrics and was inspired by her secular song, Got to Move On.

Jamaicans make up the largest single group of foreign nationals in United Kingdom prisons, and a proposal by British Home Secretary John Reid could change that. Some convicts could return to Jamaica in order to deal with serious overcrowding problems in British prisons. The Home Secretary announced a pilot program this week that will offer the convicts 2,500 pounds to leave Britain. Under the program, the convicts would not be handed cash, but would see their accommodation, education and training paid for, or they would receive assistance setting up a new business, after they are deported.

Legendary fast bowler Courtney Walsh urged Jamaican and Caribbean nationals overseas to “be a part of history” by traveling to Jamaica for next year’s Cricket World Cup. Walsh, who was part of the Jamaica Local Organizing Committee of the Cricket World Cup’s road show in New York, told those gathered in Manhattan that the West Indies may never host the event again, so it is important for those in the Diaspora to experience it. Jamaica will host the opening match of the event on March 11, 2007 followed by six first round games and one semi-final match. The promotional tour included public meetings throughout New York.

O’Brian Davis sees the world as a pretty good place these days. Just five months ago, the 18-year-old was going blind. Thanks to some Americans, the youth received a corneal transplant in the U.S. and should be able to see just find in a few short months. The Jamaican’s right and left corneas were bulging and he suffered from double vision. Doctors told him his condition was worsening, and there began his journey toward new sight. The boy’s pastor began raising funds and awareness to try to collect the money needed for the surgery. When a student from Thomas More College heard about the situation, she volunteered her boss to do the surgery. She happens to work for an eye surgeon. She told the boy that if he could raise the money to get to the United States, his surgery would be free. That’s exactly what happened. Davis is expected to return to Jamaica as early as next week. He is now considering a career in ophthalmology.

Victor Roach, director of the National Committee for Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency in Barbados is leading an initiative to ban smoking at all 12 venues for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The event will see a dozen cricket grounds in nine Caribbean nations. While the conditions of the event call for designated smoking areas, advocates are calling for the event to be totally smoke-free and are urging host nation governments to enact legislation to prohibit smoking during tournament matches. The World Cup will run from March 13 to April 18 of next year. About 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the tournament.

Today the Reggae Boyz will try to gain back some lost pride when they take on Canada in an international friendly at the National Stadium, coming off their first-round exit in the Digicel Caribbean Cup. They have nothing to play for but pride. Interim coach Carl Brown, who will leave next month, says the Boyz are up for the challenge and know what to do. Jamaica’s failure to advance in the Digicel Cup means the team also failed to qualify for the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S. and will not have a competitive game until the World Cup qualifiers start in 2008. The team was booed at their tepid Digicel Cup performance.

Arnett Gardens Football Club fired seven players for lack of commitment and effort yesterday. The players include the top goal-getter Kwame Richardson. Others included in the sacking were Lacon Brissett, Conry Hall, David Bernard, Jr., Oneil Marshall, Kierald McCleod and Colin Oldham. They were handed their dismissal papers as they arrived for training yesterday evening at the club’s Tony Spaulding Sports Complex grounds. The team’s coach stated that some players just were not carrying their weight and they needed to go ahead and let go those who weren’t doing their part to ensure a winning team. Arnett Gardens is at the bottom of the roster with one point from three games.

Jamaica’s world 100 meters record-holder, Asafa Powell, is slated to win the International Association of Athletics Federation’s Male Athlete of the Year for 2006. Powell was the most impressive male on the circuit in this year with no global championships, winning all his races. The official ceremony will be held on November 12 in Monaco, and Powell, with a record 12 sub-10 second clockings, should walk away with the award. Powell won the Commonwealth Games 100 m title as well as all six Golden League races, and secured a share of the $1 million prize money. Powell should finish ahead of Americans Tyson Gay and Jeremy Wariner, who were third and second on the list respectively.

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