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EU concerned about loans to Agri ministry officials

News post September 11, 2015

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015

An admission by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Donovan Stanberry that he and other senior staff received loans under the Cane Expansion Fund has triggered concerns within the European Union (EU), which finances the programme.

The admission was made as the Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, quizzed Stanberry during a meeting of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Stanberry said he received a loan after making an application and the process was transparent.

He also disclosed that other senior ministry officials benefited from loans from the Fund.

Head of Co-operation at the European Commission Jesus Orus Baguena says the EU will be carrying out its own investigation into the matter.

He says if the Fund was mismanaged this would have implications for future payments under the parent project, the Sugar Transformation Programme.

Meanwhile, Shaw has called for the auditor general to conduct an urgent audit of expenditure under the Sugar Transformation Programme.

published by The Gleaner.

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Election focus for PNP conference

News post September 11, 2015

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015| Gary Spaulding

People’s National Party (PNP) Chairman Robert Pickersgill reviews documents after a press conference at the party’s Old Hope Road, St Andrew headquarters while General Secretary Paul Burke (left), Noel Arscott, Derrick Kellier, and party vice president Angela Brown Burke, look on.

Looming national elections are slated to be top priority during the People’s National Party (PNP)’s 77th annual conference, launched yesterday at the party’s Old Hope Road, St Andrew, headquarters.

While stressing that it was the prerogative of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to announce the election date, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill disclosed that the second day of the conference would be devoted to election preparations and a review of the organisational structures of the party.

Pickersgill steered clear of speculation on a likely election date, but declared that the PNP deserved a second chance in Government.

“Going forward, we intend to step up the progress in growing the economy and building a prosperous Jamaica,” said Pickersgill.

The party chairman’s “Step up the progress” pronouncement preceded other declarations in the call for another term to continue the PNP’s:

– Acceleration of its interventions in a number of critical areas including the ICT/BPO sector, tourism, agriculture, port and road infrastructure and energy;

– Job-creation initiatives and further empowering of the MSME’s through access to credit and other financing options;

– Protecting the environment and addressing more aggressively climate change and environmental hazards;

– Deepening and strengthening the process of local government reform;

– Improvements to the justice system;

– Deepening cooperative and collective approach to governance by strengthening our relationship with private sector, civil society and trade unions.

Playing down the impact ripples caused by challenges to incumbent members of parliament would have on the party as it gets into election mode, Pickersgill stressed that the democratic process was at work.

The party conference will take place September 18 to 20 at the National Arena.

published by The Gleaner.

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‘Slaughter house’ – Mother gives ‘distressing’ testimony about bloody deaths of sons in Tivoli home

News post September 11, 2015

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015|Livern Barrett

Annette Marshall testifies during yesterday’s sitting of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

A resident of Tivoli Gardens yesterday gave gripping testimony about how her two sons died inside her blood-soaked apartment two days after the launch of the May 2010 police-military operations in her west Kingston community.

Jane McFarlane told the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that she spoke with one of her sons, Oshane Lindsay, as he lay wounded with a bullet in his back 10 minutes after her last telephone conversation with his brother, Martin Lindsay.

“‘Bout 10 minutes after me done talk to Martin, Oshane call me and me only hear him say ‘Lee Lee, [her nickname] Pops [Martin’s nickname] dead,” she recounted.

“Me call back di number and say… ‘who dis’ and him say ‘Poi’ [Oshane’s nickname]. Then him say ‘Lee Lee, me get a shot inna me back and Pops dead, Pops dead pan the step,” the mother of seven continued.

She said her wounded son told her “me feel like me ago dead”, before revealing that he and his brother were shot by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

According to her, a post-mortem revealed that Martin died from “a bullet to his chest and a next bullet to one of his arm”.

Annette Marshall, another Tivoli Gardens resident, testified earlier that she saw police personnel remove three bodies from McFarlane’s home in a truck.

According to Marshall, this happened after she overheard a policeman asking his colleague if she “call the vehicle yet fi come fi dem three dead man deh.”

“I hear the truck coming down [the street] so I went upstairs [her home], ease weh di curtain ’cause I want to see who was these bodies coming out. First, I could make out a man that I don’t know. Then when a look again I see dem take out a body without head,” Marshall recounted.

“The third body, him full a gunshot hole and bloody,” she added.

“You recognise that third body?” asked senior legal counsel to the commission Garth McBean, as he led her through her evidence.

“That was Jane McFarlane’s son … is Lindsay is him last name, but we call him Pops,” she testified.

McFarlane testified that two days later she was allowed into her home, located on Wilton Hill Drive, and said what she saw reminded her of a slaughter house.

“Mi mother used to do butchering work … ; it remind me of when mi used to go slaughter house. It didn’t look like the house I was living in,” she said.

She told the commission that she subsequently found more than 10 spent shells inside her home, which she has since turned them over to the Office of the Public Defender.

The three-member commission probing the conduct of the operations that were aimed at capturing drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke also saw photographs showing large pools of blood in sections of the house.

“This is very distressing,” said commission chairman Sir David Simmons, as McFarlane wrapped up her testimony.

McFarlane testified that as tensions began mounting in sections of west Kingston after then Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced that he had given the green light for Coke’s extradition to the United States, she went to Tivoli Gardens to pick up her seven children and take them to safety at her other home.

McFarlane said she blamed herself for Oshane’s death, pointing out that when he told her he had been shot, she called the police and requested that they send someone to assist him.

“Me keep asking me self, did I betray him? …why I say that? Oshane was alive and I ask for help for Oshane and the help that I get is a next dead body,” she testified.

“Inna my self I feel – and this always get me emotional – like if I didn’t send them to help him, he would still be alive,” she insisted.

McFarlane will face cross-examination when the hearings resume today.

published by The Gleaner.

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High light bills threaten sustainability of Community Access Points

News post September 11, 2015

Published:Friday | September 11, 2015|Daraine Luton

Robinson

Having spent more than $600 million establishing community access points (CAPs) across the island, one government member of parliament (MP) is now declaring that the entire project is faced with a sustainability problem due to high electricity bills.

Julian Robinson, MP for South East St Andrew and junior minister in the energy and technology ministry, which oversees the creation of CAPs, said in the House of Representatives on Wednesday that “having spent millions to equip them, they are not sustainable”.

Robinson, a first-time MP, while contributing to the State of the Constituency Debate, said that four new CAPs were established in the Jacques Road, McGregor Gardens, Deanery Road and St Theresa’s Church area of his constituency.

“These community access points serve the need of youngsters who need to do more, but it also serves the need of seniors and elders who want to go into the computer lab, not just to send emails or go on social media, but as a way of empowering themselves,” Robinson said.

He said, however, that the cost of electricity is prohibitive and if not contained, could to lead to the closure of some centres.

“One of the challenges we have found with the community access points is that once the Universal Service Fund turns it over to the community, the cost of maintaining it is prohibitive, primarily the cost of electricity. You have to run the AC 24/7 or the computers are going to mash up,” Robinson said.

A community access point is an Internet service facility established in collaboration with community organisations throughout Jamaica and funded by the Universal Service Fund in furtherance of the Government’s Universal Service Obligation.

Internet usage

Computers, associated equipment are provided to allow Jamaican residents to access the Internet. CAPs enable members of Jamaican communities to use the Internet, at minimal or no cost to users, to facilitate research, bill payments, education, communication, business, marketing and social networking. The CAP also facilitates basic computer training.

The Universal Service Fund has approved funding for 253 CAPs as at December 2014, of which 213 have been commissioned to service. During the 2014/15 financial year, 52 CAPs were established.

Robinson revealed that he has approached the government of New Zealand, which has agreed to fund the installation of solar photovoltaic units at three of the centres.

Since then, there has been the installation of 1,500 square feet of roof-mounted panels at the cost of $2.5 million. The system provides 10kw of electricity, which has seen the light bill cut from an average of $30,000 to $40,000 per month down to $10,000 per month at the three CAPs.

“We have seen at three of the centres a reduction in the electricity bills of over 70 per cent,” Robinson said in Parliament.

He added that with solar experiment, it is something that has worked in his constituency and that it would be good to have it replicated across the island.

“We are looking to see how we can use the solar technology to ease the burden on some of these community access points so that they can offer services, some free, some at reduced price to the residents, in order to ensure that the investment that we have made is sustainable,” he added.

published by The Gleaner.

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PNP launches annual conference

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015|Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips have given clear indications that an election will be called this year.

The PNP this morning launched its 77th annual conference slated for September 18-20.

At a press conference to launch the conference, PNP chairman Robert Pickersgill said the second of the three-day conference will focus on election preparations and the organisational state of the PNP.

He also said the work of the PNP during the 2014/2015 political year will come under scrutiny.

 

He also used this morning’s press conference to outline a slew of achievements of the governing party.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips have given clear indications that an election will be called this year.

published by The Gleaner.

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Corporate Hands: Digicel awards 20 scholarships to employees’ children

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015

 
It’s all smiles as the recipients of the Digicel Internal Scholarship programme show off their cheques at the recently held handover.
Petro Mattis (second left), head of Culture and Internal Communication at Digicel has a laugh with (from left). Tia Dixon, Gabrielle Young and Kayla Minott, three of the 20 scholarship recipients at the official handover held recently.

Telecommunications company Digicel Jamaica has awarded 20 scholarships valued at $1 million to its employees’ children.

The Digicel Scholarship Programme, now in its second year, is part of the company’s effort to help its employees with back-to-school expenses.

“Education is an important part of building Jamaica and helping our young people achieve their goals in life. With the Digicel Scholarship programme, we hope that we can contribute to the growth and development of the children whose parents are giving so much to the company. These children have a proven track record of excellence and we want to help them continue on that path to success,” said Andrea Hardware, director of human resources at Digicel.

published by The Gleaner.

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West Kingston needs housing

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015|Daraine Luton

Desmond McKenzie

West Kingston Member of Parliament (MP) Desmond McKenzie continues to lament the neglect of his constituency by the State, arguing that despite producing four prime ministers it has not been given its fair share of attention.

“With the entire rich heritage and the places of significance that West Kingston hold, ask the question, is the constituency better off for being situated in that local?” McKenzie said in Parliament last Wednesday.

Former Prime Ministers Sir Alexander Bustamante, Hugh Shearer, Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding were all MPs for West Kingston. The constituency is also home to places like the Coronation Market, the Bank of Jamaica, the Houses of Parliament and the Kingston Public Hospital.

But McKenzie said that in addition to a deteriorating housing stock which needs to be replenished; the physical infrastructure of the constituency is in need to urgent improvement.

“Unless there is the intervention of the State in meeting the needs of the people, the infrastructure will continue to decay,” said McKenzie.

“Sewerage is a way of life because of the failure of the authorities to improve (the situation). They have not done anything to the system in about 30 years. So almost every road, every lane in West Kingston is affected,” he added.

And as he did in 2013, McKenzie said that living in subhuman conditions was no environment for proper development.

“Housing would be the number one on the list as far as needs goes. The housing stock of West Kingston dates back to 1963,” McKenzie said.

“West Kingston area such as Denham Town is one of the oldest residential communities in Kingston but the standard of housing leaves much to be desired,” he added.

waiting for housing

The MP, who succeeded Golding in 2011, questioned how soon housing developments promised by the Government for the area would come on stream for Tivoli Gardens.

“I understand that the development should have commenced in this financial year, but to date, nothing has been done,” he said.

Tivoli Gardens was one of the communities targeted for housing under the now shelved Inner City Housing Project which was started in 2000.

The project, funded through the National Housing Trust, was aimed at constructing 5,000 units in and around the Business Improvement District and was part of an urban renewal project to deal with the repair, refurbishment and upgrade of downtown Kingston.

In the meantime, McKenzie admitted that his constituency has a crime problem which he said “is something that the people will have to work out”.

He said, however, that the media have given the community a black eye by unfairly labeling the area.

“We fall in a police division that is known as the Kingston Western police division, and when a crime takes place in St Andrew, which is a part of the Kingston Western police division, it is normally reported that it took place in West Kingston,” McKenzie said.

“We can’t carry more than what we deserve to carry, and that has affected the constituency,” he stressed.

published by The Gleaner.

 

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WEST KINGSTON ENQUIRY: I wish Dudus was still here, says resident

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015

Marsha;; … I am not going to say I didn’t know him, I know Dudus. I am not his friend, but I socialize with him, he is so nice.

A resident of Tivoli Gardens today told the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that she wished drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke was still in the community to keep the peace.

“At the murder rate now (in Tivoli Gardens) you can’t even walk in peace. Of course I wish him was still there to continue keep the peace,” Annette Marshall testified during cross-examination by lead attorney for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Deborah Martin.

“We would sleep wid we door open. We wouldn’t wake up and hear say dem rob da man deh (and) the market would a full back wid market people,” Marshall added.

The long time Tivoli Gardens resident, however, insisted that she did not know how Coke was able to keep the peace in his west Kingston stronghold.

Marshall said when people in the community had a problem they would go to Coke and if he could assist he would.

“If he couldn’t assist he would send them to Denham Town (police station),” she testified.

Marshall also told the commission that police personnel at the Denham Town Police Station would send citizens to Coke to resolve issues.

Unlike other residents in her Tivoli Gardens community, Marshall openly acknowledged that she knew Coke.

“I am not going to say I didn’t know him, I know Dudus. I am not his friend, but I socialise with him, he is so nice,” Marshall testified before the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry.

The three-member commission is probing the conduct of the May 2010 police-military operations aimed at capturing Coke.

However, in most cases, residents in Coke’s Tivoli Gardens stronghold who have testified before the commission have maintained that they only knew of the convicted drug kingpin.

Marshall also recounted how Coke “straightened out” her son after he got into trouble at school and later refused to attend.

“Prezi (Coke’s nickname) heard about it and got him into Tivoli Gardens (high school) and on the football team and him (Coke) programme him (her son) and from that him don’t smoke or do nutten like that,” the long time Tivoli Gardens resident said.

Coke is now serving a 23-year sentence in the United States  on drug and and gun charges.

published by The Gleaner.

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Creary to seek bail in rape case

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015

Don Creary and Shaneke Williams

Attorney Tom Tavares Finson says he will be making a bail application when his clients Don Creary and Shaneke Williams appear in court on sex charges.

The two are expected to appear before the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.

Creary, who is a former Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Castleton division was yesterday charged with rape while Williams was charged with aiding and abetting and sexual touching.

Tavares Finson said yesterday that his clients deny any wrongdoing.

“I am satisfied that when the matter is ventilated, the allegations will be proved to be without foundation,” the attorney told The Gleaner.

The police say in 2013 Creary and Williams took a 15-year-old girl to an apartment in St Mary where she was allegedly given alcoholic beverages before she was sexually assaulted.

 

Reported to cops

 

They further say following the incident, the teen told her mother what transpired and a report was made to the police.

Subsequent investigations led to the arrest of Creary and Williams.

The accused are also being represented by attorney at law Nadine Atkinson-Flowers.

published by The Gleaner.

 

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Boyz were certain of goal – Mattocks

Sports September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015|Livingston Scott

Mattocks

National striker Darren Mattocks, who has scored in his last four internationals, including both legs of the Boyz’s two-way World Cup qualifier against Nicaragua which ended with the second-leg in Managua on Tuesday night, said when they saw five minutes remaining on the clock their hopes of a comeback had dried up.

“When I saw 86 minutes, that’s when doubts started to creep into the back of our heads. We knew we were going to get the goal. Even if it was the 93rd minute, we knew could get a goal. But we didn’t play as if there was any doubt, and that’s why we got the goal,” he admitted.

The in-form forward noted that all his recent goals for Jamaica have been scored in very important, high-profile games and he wants to continue building his reputation as a big-game player and matchwinner for Jamaica in the qualifiers.

Mattocks also had goals in the Gold Cup semi-final and final.

In Tuesday’s game against Nicaragua, the Reggae Boyz, having lost the opening leg 3-2 in Kingston, needed to beat the hosts by two clear goals. Mattock found the opener after 24 minutes.

“We approached the game in a strong manner. We knew the task and that we had to win by two clear goals, but we were pretty confident even though we had players missing; we knew we had a talented bunch,” he told The Gleaner.

Getting the goals

“We were pretty confident, although we were cautious. But once we got the early goal, we could settle and go for the second one. We got the second goal late, but the most important thing is that we got that goal,” he insisted.

The former Bridgeport High and Waterhouse player is pleased with his rich international form.

“As a striker, your main job is to score, and each game I go out I try to put the ball in the net, especially in big games. These (last four internationals) were four very huge games and I pride myself on turning up for big games, and for the last four games I have done that and helped the team advance through the knockout phase of the World Cup qualifiers and that’s something I want to continue doing,” he stressed.

“From day one, I tell myself that whichever team I play for, whether I am a rookie or not, I always want to be that person who steps up when it matters most. It’s not going to happen all the time, but I want to be that person, so I put pressure on myself,” he continued.

“The goal in Kingston was just as important; it helped us get back into the tie. We would have been out of the tie if I hadn’t scored that first goal, but last (Tuesday) night’s goal was just important because it helped us relax and focus on just getting the second goal,” Mattocks reasoned.

“Where there is a will there is a way … the most important thing is that we got the goal and got through,” he added.

published by The Gleaner.

 

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West Kingston Enquiry: Simmons issues warning after ‘sensitive’ details leaked

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015|Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Sir David Simmons … “Yesterday this room was like a sieve. I am very concerned and I find it very disconcerting that what was discussed in private purports to have been released to the public.”

Chairman of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry Sir David Simmons says he finds it very disconcerting that sensitive matters that were discussed during a lengthy private session yesterday “purports” to have been released to the public.

Simmons warned that for future in-camera hearings, additional measures will be put in place to minimise the probability of a leak.

“Yesterday this room was like a sieve. I am very concerned and I find it very disconcerting that what was discussed in private purports to have been released to the public,” he said after holding up a copy of The Gleaner newspaper.

The former Barbados Chief Justice said the leaks raise question about whether there was any point in the three-member panel trying to comply with the section of the Commission of Enquiry Act which allows the commissioners to sit in private as the circumstances may require.

His comments were in reference to media reports over the past 24 hours that the commission is in possession of evidence from three Jamaica Defence Force soldiers that they saw police personnel kill unarmed civilians in Tivoli Gardens during the May 2010 operations aimed at capturing drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

published by The Gleaner.

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Efforts being made to expand anti electricity theft programme

News post September 10, 2015

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015

Julian Robinson, who is Member of Parliament for South East St Andrew, told legislators that the community renewal programme has been introduced in seven communities so far.

Steps are to be taken to expand the pilot programme aimed at combating electricity theft in communities with high rates of the crime.

Julian Robinson, the Junior Minister in the Ministry of Energy, told parliamentarians in the House of Representatives yesterday that additional funding is being sought to introduce the project in 10 additional communities.

Robinson said this will see 5,000 persons being targeted under the second phase.

Robinson has been tasked by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to lead a committee to address electricity theft in high-incident areas.

The MP gave the update on the project in his contribution to the  Constituency Debate by which continued in the Lower House yesterday.

Robinson, who is Member of Parliament for South East St Andrew, told legislators that the community renewal programme has been introduced in seven communities so far.

He said several houses have been rewired to allow them to go on the grid and prepaid metering was introduced to dozens of homes.

Robinson said the intention is to roll out the programme nationwide eventually.

He said there are over 180,000 persons who are stealing electricity across the island.

published by The Gleaner.

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