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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending November 4th, 2005

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A sharp increase in the number of deaths and infections from leptospirosis is being reported by the Ministry of Health. Islandwide, there have been eight suspected deaths this year from the illness, meaning the person had symptoms but lab confirmation has not been obtained. Rural communities are bracing for more potential infections as heavy rainfall is expected for Jamaica. According to the medical officer of health, 153 cases were reported in 2004, with an increase after Hurricane Ivan. The parishes of Manchester, St. James, St. Catherine and Clarendon reported the most cases. This year, there have been more than 180 cases reported. Rain is causing an increase in infections in dogs because urine from rats washes into running water supplies and the animals drink the water, causing the disease. Health officials urge citizens to be careful after heavy rains.

Increasing numbers of rape against women and children across Jamaica have prompted calls for longer and more stringent sentences against perpetrators of such crimes. Some say rapists should go to prison for life, the same as the sentence for committing murder. Rapists have a high recidivism rate after returning to society following a prison sentence. Jamaica does not have a guideline for sentencing as it relates to sexual offenses, so community leaders are trying to obtain guidelines similar to that of other Caribbean countries. A short sentence sends a message that rape is not taken seriously. Other community leaders advocate rehabilitation programs along with prison sentences. Since 2002 the shortest sentence for rape was four years and the longest was 25 years.

Following six weeks of heated debate, the Senate passed a controversial Maintenance Bill, which will see women equally responsible for the maintenance of their spouses. The bill was passed unopposed with eight amendments. But the passage of the bill was not without heated discussion with the Opposition attempting to stall the vote. The Opposition argued they were under the impression that relevant stakeholders would have had their input on the amendments, which did not occur.

Jamaica’s most wanted criminal, Donovan “Bulbie” Bennett, was shot and killed during a joint police military operation in Rock River, Clarendon yesterday morning. As the reputed leader of the Clansman gang, Bulbie was on the police most wanted list for more than 10 years. Bennett and his driver were killed during a predawn raid on his seven-bedroom house in the Tanaky District off the Rock River Road. Police approached the house and were fired at by people inside, and a shootout ensued. The bodies of the two men were taken by helicopter away from the scene, with police declining to disclose the location of the bodies. A woman occupying the house at the time of the raid was taken into custody. Seven other locations owned by Bennett were searched yesterday.

Angry protests and gun battles between armed thugs and the police forced the lockdown of most schools, shuttered businesses and led to the shooting death of a woman in Spanish Town, St. Catherine yesterday. The protests were sparked by the death of reputed People’s National Party-affiliated “Clansmen” leader Donovan “Bulbie” Bennett during a joint police military operation in Rock River on Sunday. Bennett had been a regular fixture on the most wanted list for more than 10 years. Anarchy reigned in the old capital as motorists were chased by bursts of gunfire and forced to take evasive action as they navigated roads blocked with burning debris. As of last evening streets remained mostly deserted although most had been cleared of the debris. During the day, sporadic gunfire, fiery roadblocks and armed thugs attacking the police were ongoing. On Sunday night three policemen were shot in retaliation attacks.

Members of Jamaica’s governing People’s National Party (PNP) are demanding proof that the St. Catherine North Police provide proof that the party was a major supporter of Jamaica’s most wanted man, Donovan “Bulbie” Bennett, who was shot and killed in a police operation on Sunday night. Member of Parliament Sharon Haye-Webster of South Central St. Catherine demanded that the police provide evidence, vehemently denying that she had provided any assistance to Bennett. Superintendent Kenneth Wade made the accusation on Monday after the raid, saying that the support of the PNP has helped fuel the Clansman gang which has operated in Spanish Town for several years. At the time of his death, Bennett was wanted in connection with 80-100 murders committed over a two-year period, and was also linked to several cases of extortion and other serious crimes. Haye-Webster maintains that interaction she has had with gangs in Spanish Town was with the invitation and supervision of the police.

Infections resulting from a suspected case of food poisoning have killed three people as of Wednesday. Executive Director of Food for the Poor Bradley Finzi-Smith reported that his organization was recalling 124,000 packages of nutritious drinks distributed islandwide since last month. According to Smith, 854 packets of the fruit flavored drink, AdvantEdge Carb Control, were to be distributed in the Gregory Park area, where the latest victim died. The health department is conducting investigations into the problem, sending samples to a private laboratory for testing. People who drank the substance and became ill are being encouraged to contact their local health department.

After almost 18 months of negotiations, the members of the Jamaica Police Federation unanimously voted to accept the Government’s latest wage offer yesterday. General Secretary of the Federation, Corporal Hartley Stewart, said that 90 percent of the delegates present at the meeting voted by secret ballot to accept the wage offer. Two thirds of the total delegates were present at the meeting. Settlement of the long-running battle came after police negotiators held one last meeting with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson last month. The PM became involved after police decided that talks with State Minister for Finance Fitz Jackson were not progressing. The government held a position that it was constrained by the terms of an agreement with public sector employee trade unions and could not offer the police the more than 40 percent wage increase they were demanding. Some of the benefits resulting from yesterday’s agreement include a $50,000 one-time payment to each member and a housing benefit.
The Maximizing Velocity and Power Track Club, home of the world’s fastest man Asafa Powell, was given a timely financial boost yesterday. The National Commerce Bank Jamaica Limited, presented the club with a $6 million check in a four-year sponsorship of the University of Technology-based MVP Track Club, which will help prepare athletes for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Top members of the club include Powell, World Championship medalists Michael Frater and Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Olympic gold medalists Sherone Simpson and Tanya Lawrence. Lee Chin, chairman of the bank, said he was inspired after watching the Olympics on TV. He believes the contribution will help the MVP accomplish its goals for the upcoming games.

The battle for places in the first end round final for the Wray and Nephew National Premier League intensifies today. A full schedule of matches is scheduled with five teams still in the running to get in. Harbour View has 21 points and the lead position, with five points between them and their next rival, Tivoli Gardens. These two teams play today. One point today will assure Harbour View’s position in the end round but a loss and a loss to Waterhouse could see them squeezed out since Tivoli Gardens and Arnett Gardens could end up with a maximum of 22. Another big game will see Arnett Gardens, in third place, host Portmore United, who are undefeated.

Waterhouse lost out on their opportunity to move closer to a place in the first End-of-Round final last night after playing to a 0-0 draw against Boys’ Town in Wray and Nephew National Premier League action. Boys’ Town held their own with a physical performance in the second half that held up against the intensity of the Waterhouse team’s efforts. The Waterhouse team now has 16 points and coach Calvert Fitzgerald says they have work to do. Boys’ Town has inched up to 11 points and missed opportunities to score toward the end. Both teams were reduced to 10 players when Waterhouse’s Demar Phillips and Boys’ Town’s Xavean Virgo were given their marching orders for striking each other in an off-the-ball incident.

An excellent worth ethic and team sprit are credited with giving Harbour View’s team the seven-point lead they have in the Wray and Nephew National Premier League. The coach made that statement following a victory over second-place Tivoli Gardens at the Harbour View Mini Stadium on Sunday night. At the start of the season it was not assured the team would do well, since they had lost several of their key players to transfers. The coach credits hard work in the off-season with honing the team’s abilities and their cohesiveness. With a game to spare in the first round, Harbour View has already qualified for the first End-of-Round final ahead of Arnett Gardens, Portmore United, Tivoli Gardens and Waterhouse, who all have a shot at the second place spot. Harbour View currently holds 24 points, followed by Arnett with 17.

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

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Written by Staff Writer