THIS WEEK’S NEWS SUMMARY
UNIONS WANT WORKERS TO HAVE FREE PASS—8/13/05
Trade union officials will meet with government this weekend regarding the possibility of exempting public sector employees from paying increased bus fares that are currently proposed to incline steeply. Despite concerns about rising prices, the unions agreed via a Memo of Understanding that the wage restriction pact between the government and the trade unions will remain in place. The memorandum expires in March, and the unions are hopeful that further increases will not take place between now and then. The news came in the same week as the announcement that energy bills will increase by a little less than four percent in September, due to rising costs.
FIRE BRIGADE OFFICERS WANT CHAIRMAN AND BOARD MEMBERS FIRED—8/14/05
Some senior officers of the Jamaica Fire Brigade want the chairman, Delroy Brown, and some board members fired, saying they are incompetent, complacent and without the vision needed by the Brigade. Brown counters those accusations by saying it is largely due to a deficit in government funding that has created the problems the JFB articulated recently. While he does not give himself stellar grades for his performance, he does believe that a lack of equipment and training is to blame for most of the problems being experienced. Officials in the Brigade complain that Brown has no knowledge of firefighting and is therefore a detriment instead of an asset.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER SHORTAGE THREATENS SAFETY OF AIR TRAVEL—8/15/05
The island’s two major airports have too few qualified air traffic controllers, creating a safety risk, according to the president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association. The ATCA is calling for the government to take responsibility for the situation. The government and ATCA have been wrangling over salary increases for more than a year, with ATCA pushing for a 30% increase in salaries. The salary issues have created a shortage in personnel, creating potentially dangerous work hours and a lack of vacation leave for controllers who must fill the gaps. New personnel are being sought, but it will not solve the immediate shortage due to the need for training.
POLICE COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR RELOCATION OF DOWNTOWN RESIDENTS—8/16/05
Residents of downtown Kingston should be relocated and old buildings in the commercial district repaired, according to Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas. The commissioner spoke to a civic group and asked them to actively support redeveloping the downtown area. He called the downtown area neglected and dilapidated, saying it is an uphill battle to fight crime in inner-city communities given the poverty and squalor so prevalent there. Relocation would have a positive effect on the crime rate according to the official. Previous relocation programs indicate the effort would be a success/
DISASTER FUND NEEDS REPLENISHING—8/17/05
A key disaster management official warns that the country’s disaster fund is not adequately financed following several hurricanes in the past year that have had financial impact on the island. Dr. Barbara Carby is urging that the fund be added to each year from the national budget, so that a surplus can be built. The fund has not been contributed to on a regular basis since its inception on 1988 following Hurricane Gilbert. She suggests building the fund through the issuance of catastrophe bonds so that the fund builds in years when there is no natural disaster. She also urged that public buildings need to be built properly to ensure less damage and therefore demand on the fund.
RIVAL GANG FEUD LEAVES ANOTHER THREE DEAD—8/18/05
Two teenagers and another man were murdered execution style in a house in east Kingston on Tuesday, the result, police say, of rival gangs that have been feuding in the area. The killings forced the cancellation of a visit by government officials representing several agencies who were planning to visit the area to meet with residents regarding programs to assist with numerous social issues in the community. A social fund unveiled earlier this year is earmarked for social projects that would complement anti-crime efforts. The triple murder brings the toll to six dead in the area in just the past four days, the result of gunmen holding the area under siege.
HAITIAN NATIONALS SENT HOME—8/18/05
Seventy-eight Haitian nationals were sent back home on Wednesday after seeking asylum in Jamaica. Their requests were denied by a United Nations committee reportedly because most did not meet the criteria for political asylum. This far, only five Haitian nationals have been successful in obtaining asylum since the political crisis in that country. Another 40 people are expected to be repatriated over the next several weeks, with another 90 remaining at the Montpelier cam set up for their temporary use as they await decisions regarding their appeals for asylum.
PENSION BENEFITS TO IMPROVE–8/19/05
Adjustments to pension benefits will come about next year, benefiting pensioners throughout Jamaica. There were adjustments to the pension fund in 2001 and 2003, staying with the trend to adjust the fund every other year. Another benefit for some in rural areas of the country is the plan to construct new offices in some rural parishes. The planned construction of new offices in Clarendon, Portland and St. Elizabeth are the results of a profitable fund, creating the need to invest in infrastructure. The fund is also looking for bankable projects to help fund, that create employment for rural areas.
WORLD’S FASTEST MAN MAY NOT RUN—8/13/05
When Jamaica’s sprint relay team runs the 4×100 meters final at the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Asafa Powell will likely not be among them. The runner missed the 100 meter competition due to an injury, wanted to compete and speculation continued that he would appear in the race. His manager, however, reported that Powell would not be participating, given that he could reinjure himself and put him in danger. He is, however, back in training in preparation for the Zurich Golden League meet to take place on the 19th or perhaps an event on the 26th. His agent says he will not compete until he is completely healed.
FINAL DAY OF COMPETITION YIELDS SILVER FOR JAMAICA—8/15/05
Jamaica’s relay team scored a silver medal in the women’s 4×400 meter race in Helsinki on the final day of competition. Led by Lorraine Fenton, the team ran a clean race to finish behind Russia. Clocking a season best 3:24.44, the women’s team was well pleased with their efforts and the results, especially after a dropped baton in the previous day’s race had the team rattled. Great Britain took the bronze medal in the event. The men’s team brought home a bronze medal, bested by the U.S. and the Bahamas.
UNDER-15 TEAM STRANDED IN PORT OF SPAIN—8/16/05
Jamaica’s Under-15 team participated in the Caribbean Football Union Youth Cup in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago by way of Miami. Visa problems meant the players were not able to fly as a group as they usually do, meaning only five members of the team returned to Jamaica yesterday. U.S. visas were granted to most of the team at the last minute. The team’s assistant coach is with the boys left behind, who are hopeful they will secure flights home perhaps as soon as Tuesday. Jamaica routed the British Virgin Islands 21-0 and worked their way to the quarter finals before losing to Canada 4-2 in the semi-finals.
CONTROVERSY AS ALL-STARS ADVANCE TO SEMI-FINALS—8/18/05
The Tivoli Gardens All-Stars went on to the semi-finals at the Jamaica Basketball Association’s DHL Knockout Classic, but they got there in unusual fashion. The Arnett Garden Rockers refused to complete a game. Early into the game between the two teams, a referee stopped the action and indicated that the Rockers’ top player, Arnel Campbell, was ineligible to play due to a suspension issued in the team’s previous game. The team professed to be unaware of the suspension or the player’s ineligibility. At that point the team refused to continue playing, giving the All-Stars a move up to the semifinals.
The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.