JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending December 8th, 2006

Officials from the Ministry of Health are researching in sections of Kingston and St. Andrew trying to determine whether four recently identified cases of malaria were imported or contracted locally. The disease is potentially fatal. Sources reveal that no one has died and that the first case was uncovered on November 6, with the latest case being discovered yesterday. The first infected person was treated and released from a Kingston hospital. As a result of the scare, Health Minister Horace Dalley has ordered a number of health centers be opened in St. Catherine and Kingston over the weekend to care for people who experience malaria-like symptoms. Symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms with chills, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness. One physician is making a link between the disease and the immigration of Haitians to the island.

Due to numerous complaints and unquestionable proof, the government has launched a covert surveillance into the ill treatment of patients at hospitals and health centers in a bid to curb the incidents of mistreatment. Public sector workers from the ministry and agencies under the portfolio of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller were informed of the program at a staff meeting. The callous treatment is being blamed on staff being tired and overwhelmed because of the high incidence of crime. It was not stated specifically what punitive measures would be levied against health professionals found wanting. In addition, the Ministry of Health will be conducting a survey of public attitudes to ascertain how people feel about going to hospitals and health centers.

A one-week-old baby is among 22 children and their parents who were left homeless after a demolition exercise in Bodles, Old Harbour. A total of 40 people lived in wooden structures on the property. It is reported that the residents, who have been living in a section of the Bodles Property for the past 10 years, did not comply with warnings to leave by Friday. Men armed with hammers and accompanied by the police, smashed the eight wooden houses where the families had been living. The residents say they have spent thousands of dollars to build the structures, but do acknowledge they occupied the land illegally. They say they have not been able to find alternative accommodations. Children played in the wreckage following the demolition, and adults cooked a meal on an open fire, telling reporters they cannot leave.

A constable remains hospitalized following an early morning shooting in Salt Spring, St. James. Two other police constables were treated for gunshot wounds at the hospital and later released. The constables, all attached to the St. James Police Division, were fired upon by heavily-armed men while patrolling the volatile community of Salt Spring. The Police High Command condemned the attack as brutal, vowing that it will not be deterred in its crime-fighting efforts in St. James. He asked for public support to help pursue the shooters and bring them to justice. It is reported that about 2:30 a.m., the constables were fired on by men hiding behind a wall in a section of Salt Spring known as SS Corner. During an ensuing gun battle, the constables reportedly had to flee their service vehicles, which subsequently crashed into two other parked vehicles. At least 20 bullet holes were seen in the car. The incident comes days after the National Security Minister announced several new strategies to tackle St. James’ worrying crime situation.

The government is moving swiftly to contain the current malaria outbreak, with the cabinet yesterday approving $30.2 million to provide an emergency response to the life-threatening disease. The government announced that it recognized that if the mosquito-borne disease is not managed decisively it could have serious consequences. Residents in some areas where malaria cases have been identified say they are concerned that the disease may spread rapidly in their communities, even while the Ministry of Health is insisting that they have the infectious disease under control. Malaria cases have been identified in the Kingston communities of Delacree Park, Denham Town, Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens, as well as two cases in Sydenham Villas in St. Catherine. Officials are conducting a house to house survey to ensure breeding grounds are not being provided by standing water in yards and surrounding areas.

Despite threats of political action from the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party, the government plans to again postpone local government elections, the second time this year, until December 31, 2007. The deputy leader of government business tabled two bills yesterday to defer the election. According to the bills, the election will be postponed to facilitate the completion of an audit of parish councils and the reform of any structures of accountability that may arise as a result of the audit. The administration is also postponing the election until the end of next year to facilitate consideration of a report from the local government Reform Committee. Debate on the bills begins today. In June, the government, by way of an act of Parliament, first postponed the local election until the end of this year to allow for the completion of a new voters’ list. The Opposition is expected to object to the postponement during the debate.

The President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica has called on the government to ensure that there are adequate medical supplies available to fight the malaria outbreak that is currently affecting sections of Kingston and St. Catherine. Some of the resources being requested are mosquito nets, insect repellants, medications, transportation for nurses and other supplies. Yesterday, the Minister of Health reported there were 31 confirmed cases, including those who had been treated and sent home. He said the number of cases is expected to peak and then taper off, as 90 percent of the mosquito breeding sites have been destroyed and there should be no more adult mosquitoes to bite people. The United States and Canada have urged their citizens to take antimalarial medication if they have plans to stay in Kingston. The advisory came after one of its citizens was confirmed among the first 21 cases, after staying in Jamaica between late October and early November.

Six people, including two police constables, have been jailed for their alleged involvement in the escalating crime wave in St. James, which has left at least 31 people dead over the past four weeks. The constables were taken into custody on Saturday for reportedly confiscating $97,000 from two key players in the illicit lottery scam, without arresting them. The two are scheduled to appear before an identification panel next week. Fourteen police officers from this division have been arrested for breaches of the Anti-Corruption Act over the past 18 months. Meanwhile, four other men have been charged with the November 18 multiple killing of four family members in the community of Retirement. Three other members of the family were shot and injured in that incident. The men were taken from a bus that was among vehicles in a motorcade returning from the Jamaica Labour Party’s annual conference in Kingston.

Jamaican-born migrant smuggler Tyrone Williams moved one step closer to the death penalty yesterday after 12 jury members found him guilty in the US’ deadliest human smuggling attempt. Williams was found guilty of all 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting illegal immigrants. Nineteen of the 70 migrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic Williams had piled into his airtight tractor-trailer died in 2003 during the smuggling attempt from South Texas to Houston. The jury agreed on the guilty verdict following five days of deliberation. They will next begin deliberating whether Williams should be sentenced to death or life in prison. Last year a jury convicted Williams on 38 transporting counts, but he avoided a death sentence. The Court of Appeals claimed the verdict did not count because the jury failed to specify Williams’ role in the crime. Williams is the lone person in the case facing the death penalty. Seven others have been sentenced to prison while sentencing for three more is pending.

At least two Jamaican groups in the United Kingdom are welcoming the appointment of Burchell Whiteman as the new Jamaican High Commissioner to London. Founder for Voicing for Jamaica, David Chenn, says Mr. Whiteman will be a great inspiration to Jamaicans in the UK as he will not only be seen as part of the community, but one who will listen to other Jamaicans, regardless of their background. Founder of Facilitators for a Better Jamaica, Sylbourne Sydial, is viewing Mr. Whiteman’s appointment as one that will help advance the Jamaican community. According to Sydial, Whiteman’s knowledge of the grass roots will be welcomed by Jamaicans in the British Diaspora. The Jamaican government announced this week that the former senator and cabinet member will replace Gali Mauthurin as the country’s High Commissioner to London.

Barbados’ young netball queens were dethroned by a superior Jamaica side, who won a one-sided final match of the regional junior championships 36-12 in Trinidad to finish with maximum 35 points. Playing on the indoor wooden floor at the Jean Pierre Complex for the first time after persistent morning and mid-afternoon rain made outdoor play unsuitable, Barbados meekly surrendered the title they won in St. Kitts in 2005, with a lackluster display that resulted in a sweeping 24-goal margin triumph for Jamaica, who led at every quarter. The Jamaicans, who had steamrolled their opponents in their six previous matches, found their rhythm at the end of the first quarter and held onto it for the duration.

Several Jamaican agencies are partnering with overseas entities to cushion any serious fallout that could result from a new travel policy by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Jamaican Consulate this week joined the Jamaica Tourist Board and the US Postal System in urging Jamaicans, Americans and other nationals wanting to travel to Jamaica, to have a valid passport before taking the trip. Under a new immigration law, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all traveling US citizens must be in possession of a passport. The new law is expected to have some impact on Jamaica’s tourist industry. The US continues to be the primary source of visitor arrivals and visitor spending in Jamaica, and showed record growth for the first nine months of this year. A recent study showed that more than 70 percent of Americans do not have a valid passport. An incentive program is now in place to encourage more Americans to obtain a passport through an accelerated program with the US Postal System.

It took 120 minutes and 10 penalties to decide a winner, but in the end Glenmuir High School emerged as the 2006 ISSA/Pepsi/JN daCosta Cup champions yesterday after their defeat of Frome Technical 3-2 on penalties. The win came after they had battled to a 1-1 regulation and extra-time deadlock at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay. Glenmuir’s coach called it a total team effort that resulted from high motivation to make amends from last year. Frome dominated the first half and went into the break with a 1-0 lead, but in the second half Glenmuir took charge and it was no surprise when they drew level through a 57th-minute equalizer from skipper James Thomas. From there the teams remained deadlocked through regulation and extra-time play.

A double strike by Joel Grant propelled Jamaica to a 2-0 first-leg win over Trinidad and Tobago in their CONCACAF Under-20 final round playoff at the Harbour View mini-stadium yesterday. Grant, who plays for the English Premier League outfit Watford, netted in the 32nd and 75th minutes to give Jamaica a two goal cushion for the return leg in the twin-island republic on December 6th. In a game that saw T&T missing two early chances, Grant opened the scoring after latching on to a through pass and placed his shot wide of the advancing goalkeeper Adrian Foncette. He then doubled Jamaica’s lead and eased the nerves of the fidgeting Jamaica Football Federation President, Crenston Boxhill, with a beautiful strike.

Jamaica’s Harbour View and SV Centro Social Deportivo Barber of Curacao scored easy wins on Sunday night to set up an intriguing final clash today at the Harbour View mini-stadium. Both teams lead Group A of the Caribbean Football Club Championship with maximum six points from two games and will clash tonight before Aigle Noir from Haiti takes on Positive Vibes from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Host team Harbour View defeated Haiti’s Aigle Noir 1-0 in their first game before swamping Positive Vibes 5-0. Meanwhile, SV Centro Barber scored identical 2-0 wins over Positive Vibes and Aigle Noir to set up a grand finale with Harbour View with the winner advancing to the semi-final round.

Lady Avalanche created history at the Montego Bay Cricket Club courts when they defeated the Pacers 53-28 in the final of the inaugural Western Basketball Association’s Women’s League to become the first female champions in western Jamaica’s basketball. The team’s coach allowed that he was extremely proud of his team for their hard work and commitment. The going was extremely close in the first three quarters, but Lady Avalanche changed gears at the beginning of the fourth quarter and from then on, the final result was never in doubt. The Pacers coach felt that an injury to Danielle Ellis, one of their key players, hurt the team badly. He did credit the team with good play, especially considering that it was the first time many of them had played basketball.

Here Today, Tomorrow? Maybe…

Isn’t it funny how we take life for granted? Because we have gone to sleep and woken up every day for the past twenty, thirty, or whatever number of years, we have become accustomed to it. When we leave the office, we flippantly wish our colleagues a good night, or weekend, with words like, “See you tomorrow” or “See you on Monday”, yet the stark reality is that there are many who have that same thought, but never lived to see the break of day.

James addressed this presumption with the words: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:13-14). In other words, while we go about our business, life is like a puff of smoke; very temporary. However, it is in this short window of time that we are allowed to live, and in which we define our eternal destiny.

The only time we own is “now”; nothing after that is guaranteed. Isn’t it a good time to forgive, to say “I am sorry”, to reconcile, to do all the wonderful things you know you should do but have been putting off? Most importantly, it is a good time to embrace Jesus who is the gateway to everlasting life. Based on whatever God ordained for your number of years, tomorrow may be too late.


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