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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending October 7th, 2005

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After one female student was shot and another raped at gunpoint, teachers boycotted the classroom on Friday at Charlie Smith and Trench Town high schools in Arnett Gardens, Kingston. More than 50 teachers met with Dr. Omar Davies, the Member of Parliament for the area, and unanimously decided to continue the boycott into the beginning of the next school week. Teachers have told officials they fear for their safety in the wake of renewed gang violence in the area. The boycott means that more than 1100 students will be told to stay away from school until the teachers return, likely on Wednesday. Police have arrested 20 men in the area following a sting operation; they say that five of the men are linked to the shooting and the rape.

It’s been almost 20 years since a hanging took place in Jamaica, and ongoing debate has been keeping the subject on the front burner. Now, the two government parties may be coming to some kind of agreement about returning the death penalty to Jamaica. The opposition has reignited the discussion by asking the government to state specifically how much time is needed once a condemned person is sentenced to death. If the PNP will give a specific number of years, the JLP would likely agree to the sentencing structure. Currently there are only five men on death row, since many were given new sentencing hearings when the penalty was overturned in 2004. Reinstating the death penalty is considered to be the best way to thin the prison population and reduce costs.

Operation Trident officers are closing in on the suspected killer of seven-year old Toni-Ann Byfield and her father Bertram Byfield, Jamaicans. The latest report says that the suspect could be picked up within weeks, since he has now been identified. The case has been called the most difficult in Britain to solve, but an offered bounty and a rebroadcast of a show aimed at catching criminals seems to have sparked information. Several callers have given the name of the suspect along with a description. He is said to be a black British male in his 30s. The murder weapon still has not been found from the 2003 slayings, but police believe it was used in another crime in north London. The little girl was slain as she tried to flee from attackers who sought her father.

The Police Federation issued a deadline of 10:30 this morning to deliver an acceptable response to the Jamaican Constabulary Force’s demands for a wage increase or face “swift and decisive action.” Rank and file officers met at the Kingston waterfront yesterday and planned to meet with the National Security Minister today. If no suitable solution to the wage and benefits problem was offered then, the rank and file members would be told what to do next. No one is saying exactly what that means, but the general secretary said it will be far-reaching. The government and police have met more than 30 times over the past 17 months without reaching an agreement.

More than 40 people were detained in a sweep by security forces involving hundreds of police and soldier, armored carriers and helicopter support, in Tivoli Gardens yesterday. Community leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke was among those detained by police. In addition, two women were shot and injured during the fracas, both of whom were standing nearby opposition leader Bruce Golding. Both women are in stable condition. The police said the operation, touted as one of the largest ever, was an attempt to capture gunmen involved in the murders of three policemen last May. According to some present the police used excessive and indiscriminate force, resulting in the shootings of the two women. The raid caused disruptions in business operation, schools and transportation.

Since January, gas prices have doubled with today’s increase of $3.95 per liter for unleaded and $5.60 for diesel. Prices for kerosene and liquid petroleum gas are unchanged as of today. Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery, says the increase is due to the United States oil stocks continued fall following hurricane disruptions. Last week saw an increase of $4.30 for gasoline and $1.30 for diesel. The government reports it absorbed half the increase last week, but this week the full increase will be passed on to the consumer. Current gasoline prices are at $56.04 for 87 octane and $50.57 for diesel, compared to about $29.60 at the start of the year for gas and $28.84 for diesel. The opposition spokesman on energy called for an inquiry into the government’s pricing policy, his second call in as many weeks. He wants Jamaica to have its own domestic price to replace the use of the U.S. Gulf Reference Price in setting petroleum prices.

A 10-year old girl, her grandparents and aunt were all killed in a fiery blaze in their home yesterday. Bystanders heard screams for help that eventually died away as all efforts to help were thwarted by the gunmen who started the fire. Those who ran to assist the family were fired upon repeatedly. The West Kingston Police Division has linked the fire-bombing and deaths to an ongoing gang feud in the community. They believe it was reprisal for an incident where one man was shot and injured. The feud is between men from Barnes Avenue, where the family’s home was located, and Ramsay Road. Residents, though, blame a group of Jamaica Defense Force soldiers for the deaths.

Two businessmen from Montego Bay face extradition after losing their legal battle in the Supreme Court to have the orders set aside. Leebert Ramcharan and Donovan Williams will appeal the ruling according to their attorneys. The two are seeking to be released from prison, both of whom face charges in the U.S. for conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. After the verdict was handed down regarding the extradition, one of the men’s lawyers complained of media reports written by a member of the court and said such displays should be avoided. It was argued that Ramacharan could not receive a fair trial in the U.S. because of being labeled a drug kingpin by the U.S. President, and because of his race. That argument did not sway the court.


Harbour View Football Club received a $500,000 check from the Sports Development Foundation last week. The money was committed four years ago in response to the Wray and Nephew National Premier League team because of expenses incurred to install lights in their stadium. In addition, the club has incurred expenses of J$6 million resulting from hurricane damage and mudslides in the nearby area. The club is the first in the English-speaking Caribbean to own its own facility equipped with lights, a good playing surface and seating for 6,000 spectators. The group has been praised for its sound management structure, which should allow them to maintain and enhance the physical facilities and teams.

A hard-fought 1-1 draw was the result of the battle between neighbors Arnett Gardens and Boys’ Town in their Wray and Nephew National Premier League game yesterday, held at the Spring Complex. Arnett Gardens held a 59th minute lead when Conry Hall slotted one home. Ten minutes later Boys’ Town tied the game with a point. Arnett Gardens moved to 10 points for six games, four ahead of Boys’ Town. Boys’ Town, the three-time champions turned in a good performance and proved they can compete in the league. The game was marred to some degree by violence when an Arnett Gardens fan threw a drink on a Boys’ Town staffer.

Former national striker Onandi Lowe was booted from the Arnett Gardens team last week, but has been welcomed by Waterhouse and its manager Peter Hibbert. Discussions are underway for signing him to the team after he expressed interest in playing for them. He reportedly wants to relaunch his career and chose Waterhouse to at least begin discussions. There should be no problem securing Lowe given his past drug-related troubles from last year. He was told on Friday by Arnett Gardens that his services were no longer needed, given the direction the club wishes to take.

Another loss has added to a miserable start to the 2005-2006 Wray and Nephew National Premier League season for Constant Spring. Their fall to Reno came in a come-from-behind 3-1 win over the Kingston-based team at the Frome Sports Complex yesterday. The Reno team came back in the third minute with goals from Fabian Blake, Kevon Grant and Ricardo Scott. The Westmoreland team has moved a step closer to the middle with seven points wile Constant Spring remains in the doldrums with only three points from their six games. Contstant Spring’s only goal came early, when Evol Headley caught the defense off guard and came in with a grounder. Reno immediately snapped back into action and evened the score, eventually bringing two more points to the board.

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

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Written by Staff Writer