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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending October 21st, 2005

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Trudy-Ann Fung, a 14-tear-old student at Melrose Primary and Junior High School, was found yesterday in the Maxfield Avenue area, after being abducted by a man in a vehicle on Waltham Park Road. Fung was found by a community resident, alive, and was given counseling by the police, as were her parents. She met a far different fate from another girl abducted the same day, who was later found dead and buried in a shallow grave. Two suspects in that case are currently in custody. Minister of National Security Dr. Peter Phillips announced plan to strengthen the government’s investigative capacities to curb the upsurge of violence against children. He urged the community to assist police as well.

Opposition leader Bruce Golding has launched a vehement attack on the government, decrying the economic situation in Jamaica. Golding believes the Jamaican economy is unable to generate the resources necessary to address an urgent situation hindering the country’s upward mobility. The opposition leader has been touring and speaking about Jamaica’s missed opportunities, highlighting the 1990s, which saw unprecedented growth for developing countries, but which saw Jamaica lag behind in growth over the ten-year period. Golding stresses the country’s total debt and the debt service of those loans as major reasons for the country’s lagging economy. The debt has grown from $38 billion to $800 billion since 1989. He also emphasized the need to curtail crime in order to spur economic growth.

A police car plummeted over the side of a large precipice caused by a landslide in Above Rocks, St. Catherine. The driver sustained minor injuries, but the accident emphasized the danger caused by this gaping hole that has forced traffic to one lane on Creary’s Road. The surface continues to crumble away as the road awaits repairs. For now, not even a sign warns of impending trouble, making the area extremely hazardous especially at night when there is little light to illuminate the problem. Police had already reported the situation when an earlier accident occurred, when a vehicle partially drove over the edge of the precipice. Minister of Transport and Works Robert Pickersgill acknowledges receiving the report but could not say when repairs might begin.

Widespread flooding and landslides are expected to continue for several days as Jamaica experiences heavy thunderstorms from Tropical Storm Wilma’s journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to become a hurricane today. Citizens were already seeking shelter in some locations, and already the damage is estimated in the millions, given extensive damage to the island’s road infrastructure in some areas. Roadways have been either flooded or damaged on the surface from the heavy rains the storm has brought. Yallah’s Ford, Bog Walk gorge and Port Henderson Road are all impassable, as are the Spanish Town to Bamboo main road near Kitson Town. A section of Porstmore Causeway was also impassable because of flooding.

Hurricane Wilma continued to flay Jamaica with heavy rains that triggered more landslides and isolated communities that are struggling with impassable roads. Many residents were scrambling for shelter as flooding became more of an issue as well. The weather is not expected to improve for another 24 hours, when the hurricane is expected to move further away from the island. Damage is already expected to cost millions as many properties have been destroyed, roads washed away and communities submerged by floodwaters. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management said there were more than 300 citizens in shelters and several that required rescue after flood waters cut off their communities. Emergency food supplies will be distributed to those dealing with flooding. Electricity outages and delays in garbage service were also being reported.

An upsurge in crime and violence has spurred the government to announce a new community employment youth program and increased police presence in troubled areas. More than 1,327 Jamaicans have been murdered since January, prompting Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to announce the crime fighting measures to the nation via broadcast. In recent weeks there have been uprising in Arnett Gardens and Mountain View Avenue as well as Spanish Town. The PM also announced the immediate implementation of community programs to provide employment for youths, but did not elaborate on the cost of the program and which communities will first see the benefits of the new initiative.

Boxer George Leslie “Bunny” Grant received the Order of Distinction from Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke, to great applause. Grant is the first Jamaican to have won a world boxing title, earning him legions of rabid fans throughout the country, many of whom were on hand to cheer his award. Many fans professed surprise that the award had not been bestowed much earlier. Grant’s championship win came 43 years ago against Briton Dave Charnley, three days after Jamaica gained independence from Great Britain. Grant began hanging out in boxing gyms in the mid-1950s and made his professional debut in 1959, a bout he lost. He rose slowly through the ranks over the next several years and finally earned the shot at the Commonwealth Lightweight championship, which he won in a unanimous decision.

The European Union might be persuaded to moderate price cuts for African, Caribbean and Pacific produced sugar, says a visiting European parliamentarian. The visiting member said she was fairly confident that an internal report would become the parliamentary position. The recommendation is that the cut be reduced from 39 percent to 25 percent. The EU has been reforming sugar policy following a ruling by the World Trade Organization. The cuts will be phased in over two years. In the meantime, the UK has pledged its support for the ACP. So far, all involved have stressed there is still room and time for negotiation. The prime minister is set to announce Jamaica’s action plan for the sugar industry next week; following that announcement the EU will decide its level of assistance to the industry, beginning that debate in January.

The Vauxhall Vultures and the Duhaney Park Sharks are set to contest the first ever Jamaica Rugby League Premiership grand final at the Old Sherwin Williams Stadium in Duhaney Park. The Vultures are the champions of league play and are hoping for a clean sweep of all the top honors for the inaugural season. They are the favorites since their combined bulk, pace and tackling abilities have made them hard to stop. The two teams have faced off before, with the Vultures carrying away a 20 point win over the Sharks, a humiliating defeat. They’ll be spoiling for an upset to keep Vauxhall from taking top honors.

The Jamaican Netball Association has confirmed that the Sunshine Girls will play two top teams in world netball. Matches will include games against New Zealand and Australia as well as Barbados. The series will pit the Sunshine Girls against some of the world’s best at the National Indoor Sports Centre. Jamaica will also play in the Tri-Nation series in November to prepare for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year. First, the number-three ranked Jamaicans will face Barbados in the opening game of the Tri-Nation series, followed by New Zealand. The top two teams from the contest will then move on to the finals on November 15.

Jamaica’s surfing team is the first-ever to attend a major championship. Returning from their efforts in California, the team boasted a 19th place finish at the Quicksilver International Surfing Association’s Junior World Surfing Championships in Huntingdon Beach. The team was immensely popular at the competition. In the Under-18 boys’ competition, team captain Icah Wilmot placed 31st in his division. Ackeem Phillips placed 37th. In the girls Under-18 division, Imani Wilmot and Noelle Jackson placed 61st while Elim Beckford placed 49th. The competition served to renew the team’s commitment after realizing they could compete in this level of play. The team is focusing now on competing again.

Wilma’s rains have caused major delays in the 2005 ISSA/Pepsi/JN Manning Cup first round, causing football fans to wait in anticipation for play to resume. Action is expected to take place Thursday, with 10 games scheduled, among them a number of crucial fixtures that could resolve many pending issues. Kingston College is in a battle with Eltham High for a spot in the second round. With only one game left, against Bridgeport, a loss today would put an end to the team’s competition. But a win and a loss by Eltham would give Kingston a chance to advance. Other standings are just as tight, with today’s games slated to decide the fates of several teams in various groups.

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

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