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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending September 30rd, 2005

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Organizers of the Rising Stars competition were forced to call off the show when larger than expected crowds converged on the event, resulting in a stampede and near-riot. Heat and overcrowding caused people to faint, and injuries were reported as chaos grew from the situation and security personnel were overwhelmed. Several thousand people gathered in Emancipation Park for the event, with many more unable to enter. Pedestrian traffic overflowed into the streets, causing traffic jams in the New Kingston area. The show was called off after three small stampedes, with attendees tearing down barriers and charging the stage area. The show was postponed until next week, when one contestant will walk away with $500,000 in cash and a recording contract.

The Police Federation and the government were expected to resolve wage dispute issues, but the resolution did not take place. Talks have broken down between the two, leaving both negotiating teams disappointed and weary. The Chairman of the Police Federation was quoted as saying the latest meeting was “making a mockery of good negotiations.” An emergency meeting took place among members of the Federation’s central executive committee after the talks broke down. According to the government team, there was some misunderstanding among the Federation’s members, but both parties refused to say exactly what occurred to cause the negotiations to fail. The negotiations have been ongoing since May of 2004, with the Federation lobbying for a 24-point salary package.

Reports are coming in that a number of students are bringing guns to school, especially in volatile areas of Jamaica. While students and teachers are aware of the problem, fear of reprisal keeps them from reporting the perpetrators to the police. As part of the Safe Schools program, a security survey has revealed that four guns were seized in schools in a three month period. More guns have been seized since the survey concluded. Police are trying to reassure teachers that they can report gun possession discreetly and their identities will be protected. The survey also revealed that nine gangs are operating in secondary schools that are part of the program. Only 112 schools participate in the program, while there are 1002 public schools island-wide. It is expected that gang activity is actually much higher than the survey conveys. The program is aimed at reducing violence in schools.

Bakers are hiking prices between 12.5 and 17 percent on a variety of goods due to the rising cost of key ingredients including flour, yeast and sugar, not to mention energy. The new price of a two-pound loaf of bread could reach $100, up from an average of $85. According to the Bakers Association of Jamaica, news of a 13 percent increase in baking flour, combined with the fuel increases and the hurricanes affecting wheat shipments, caused the price increase announcement. The latest price increase comes in the wake of rising oil prices on an international level and a hike in bus fares in Jamaica. The price increases will be decided by the individual bakers.

The government is establishing a fund to promote energy saving and the development of alternative sources of fuel as part of a national energy policy. The move comes on the heels of rising oil prices worldwide. The PetroCaribe concessionary oil agreement is being considered as the source of a possible US $10 million capital injection for the energy fund. The agreement signed with Venezuela was signed recently. The National Housing Trust is being asked to provide loans for installation of solar water heaters and other energy saving devices. According to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica’s Energy Efficiency Unit points out that inflation in Jamaica is caused largely by oil price raises and is considered the major obstacle in Jamaica meeting its economic targets. Last year solar water heaters and photovoltaic devices were exempted from GCT and import duty. Other tax incentives are being considered as well.

The construction of a new dairy processing plant in St. Catherine is still not off the ground despite five years and US $10 million. The Jamaica Dairy Farmers Federation is left with a $620 million debt, since it will have to find a way to repay a loan received through a government lending program meant to finance the building of the processing facility. The loan has evidently been spent and the processing plant is not complete. No funds are available to repay the loan or to continue with the construction of the processing plant, and the dairy federation needs at least another US $10 million to build the facility. The Dairy Federation is hoping the government will write off the existing loan. When the loan was approved, it was valued at $370 million, but the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar against the US dollar significantly increased the cost of the project and raised the amount due to be repaid. The plant was being built to eliminate the problem dairy farmers have with spoilage, converting liquid milk to powdered and to producing additional products such as milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

Cable and Wireless Jamaica has announced a 45 percent rate reduction for its customers with a new cellular plan that eliminates cross-network charges. The new plan, dubbed “Anyone Plan” will reduce cell phone rates to $10 per minute during peak hours from any C&WJ plan to any other cellular network or landline phone. Previous rates were $17.50 for the same calls. The decision was based on customer feedback, according to the company’s president. Cost is considered the biggest barrier to communication across networks according to C&WJ customers. Existing customers can sign up for the plan at any C&WJ business office. The new initiative will be promoted through at $100 million marketing campaign and launched officially today. It is expected the new campaign will boost market share for the new company, which will also be investing in additional infrastructure and network upgrades in anticipation of increased demand.

Four Jamaican hotel workers who were freed on looting charges in New Orleans on Wednesday are expected to return home by Saturday. The men were released into the custody of Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s liaison and were heading to Florida where they would be placed on a flight for Jamaica. As part of their release the Jamaicans were ordered to leave the U.S. immediately. They were arrested and charged on August 30, one day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the gulf coast. The four are from the northern parish of St. Ann and the central parish of St. Catherine and are accused of looting a go-cart.


Jamaican-born Kimani Ffriend will play for the Memphis Grizzlies when the NBA season opens in November. The one-year contract he has been offered will give him a chance for renewal based on his performance. Ffriend played for the Runnin Rebels for a brief while when he lived in Jamaica, but admits he didn’t get serious until he attended junior high school in the U.S. The power forward will be teammates with Bobby Jackson, Eddie Jones and Pau Gasol. In 2001 Ffriend signed briefly with the Miami Heat, but a foot injury caused his release just a few days later. Now fully recovered, he plans to make the most of his second chance. In the interim he has played in a number of Europe’s leagues, improving his game and preparing for the NBA.

Tivoli Gardens threw away their undefeated status and a 2-0 lead at the ISSA Pepsi/JN Manning Cup on Saturday. Tivoli scored in the 23rd minute and the 31st minute on a penalty, but St. George’s came back to even the contest, with a goal in the 36th minute and the second after a pass from substitute Kemal Malcolm at 61 minutes. Striker Nicardo Evans missed four opportunities to score, which might have enabled St. George’s to win. St. George’s took home a point for achieving the draw at Winchester Park, which the coach was satisfied with, though disappointed they have not achieved a win after three games. Next up is Waterford, tied with Tivoli for first place.

Former Rivoli player Gregg Taylor scored against his old team to bring Arnett Gardens a 1-0 win at the Wray and Nephew National Premier League on Sunday. The win was Arnett’s third in four games, putting them at nine points from four matches. Taylor scored in the fourth minute and left Rivoli to suffer their second defeat in four games. Coach Harold Thomas stressed the need for Rivoli to improve in goalkeeping, saying the team keeps giving up goals they shouldn’t. Arnett’s coach is happy with the outcome and the team’s start for the year.

Harbour View defeated Arnett Gardens 3-1 in their match at the Wray and Nephew National Premier League match at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex on Wednesday. Arnett Gardens dominated the game for the better part of play, but were down 2-0 in the 44th minute, with the next score coming in the 77th minute from Kevin King. Harbour View now holds the lead with 12 points, three ahead of Arnett Gardens, Tivoli, Waterhouse and Portmore. Both team coaches agreed that in the end, scoring goals wins the game.

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

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Written by Staff Writer