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BITU wants municipal building named after former mayor

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Sebert Davis was a veteran local government politician and trade unionist serving the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) for more than five decades before his death on Saturday, January 23 at the age of 91.

He was mayor of Savanna-la-Mar between 1981 and 1986, councillor for the Grange Hill division of the then Westmoreland Parish Council and BITU supervisor for the region covering Hanover, St Elizabeth and Westmoreland and including the Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland.

Davis died peacefully at home, leaving a legacy of service to his professions, and probably a sense of betrayal that the issue closest to his heart — the construction of a municipal office for the Westmoreland Council (now the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation) — is still unfulfilled.

Since his death, president of the BITU, Senator Kavan Gayle, has taken up the matter and is suggesting that in honour of Davis’ contribution to the local government in the parish, and his constant demands for the construction of the building, when it is completed it should be named after him.

“He consistently spoke about the need for a municipal building in Sav-la-mar. He was hard-working, committed and dedicated to the council, as well as the sugar workers in the parish and deserves having it named in his memory for his commitment to the cause,” Gayle said.

In fact, he noted that during Davis’ years of service in the parish, he often expressed his disappointment that the only capital town in Jamaica without a municipal office was Savanna-la-Mar.

Fortunately for him and like-minded members of the council, the council eventually won the support of then minister of Local Government in 2003, Portia Simpson Miller, who found it hard to believe that the town was left without a municipal building, and ordered the technocrats in her office to rectify the situation, immediately.

The situation was extremely serious, as far as Davis was concerned, after the local government body was kicked out of its own rat-infested building for interrupting the parish’s Resident Magistrate’s Court which shared the accommodation, after the judges became annoyed with the constant noise coming from their meetings and interfering with court activities. The council had to be relocated to a rented space.

In 2003, an architect at the Ministry of Local Government, Adrian Smith, visited the coastal town to inform the council that the then minister of Local Government, Portia Simpson Miller, was surprised to learn that it was still without a municipal building. He said that explained his rush to get the project started.

But, several years later the project had not started, until following a change of government the new minister of State with responsibility for Local Government, Robert Montague, announced plans to finally have the building constructed at a projected cost of some $35 million.

A groundbreaking ceremony was eventually hosted in November, 2011 by the mayor of the town, Councillor Bertel Moore, with Montague and MP for Western Westmoreland, Dr Wykeham McNeill, as guests.

Moore welcomed the allocation from Montague to have the building constructed, adding that the minister had not only helped the councillors to lobby for the funding, “but he has already given us a portion of the funds for the establishment of the building”.

However, with another change of government in December 2011, the project did not get off the ground, even then.

In August 2015, a second groundbreaking ceremony was hosted by Moore, at which Montague’s successor at Local Government, Noel Arscott, announced plans for a two-storey structure to be constructed at the intersection of Murray and Great George Streets at a cost of approximately $75 million.

He said that the new building would provide adequate space for staff and customers, and would also feature a council chamber that can accommodate up to 60 people. Construction work got underway in late 2015, and the project was scheduled to be completed within 10 months. However, that deadline was later changed to February 2017.

But the February 2017 deadline was not met either, resulting in the intervention of the current minister, desmond McKenzie, in October last year. McKenzie told members of the media then that, hopefully, work should be completed on the building before the end of November, 2018.

“I think the timeline that was given is the end of October into November. I am hoping that they will come within that timeline,” McKenzie said then.

But, when the Jamaica Observer contacted the minister last week, he was not in a position to say when that would be.

McKenzie explained that in terms of the contract which was awarded in 2014/15, the contractor ran into serious problems which delayed completion.

“The contract was given out in 2015, but the contractor is obviously not capable of completing the building and that contract was terminated last year,” the minister explained.

He added that his ministry is currently awaiting approval from the National Contracts Committee (NCC) for another contractor to complete the project.

In a news release on Davis’ passing earlier this week, Senator Gayle described him as a pioneer who had made a tremendous contribution to improve the lives of the sugar workers, and other residents of the parish and had shown selfless dedication to the most vulnerable in the parish.

Davis is survived by his wife, Rosseta and several children. The date of his funeral is expected to be known soon.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Buses with audio-video technology to secure testimony from witnesses

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Justice will be providing two buses, equipped with audio-video technology, to assist in securing testimony from witnesses in trial matters.

This was disclosed by Portfolio Minister Delroy Chuck who said the vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote areas where witnesses may be located.

These, he said, are among the initiatives underpinning the ministry’s commitment to safeguarding witnesses against intimidation and advancing their role in the justice process.

The minister’s speech was delivered by Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, during the opening of the two-day Witness Care Conference, at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona, St Andrew, on Friday.

Chuck said other initiatives include equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities, and 19 with audio-video recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation will be significantly reduced.”

Additionally, the minister said legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.

“Our goal, mission and purpose at the Ministry of Justice is to create a first class justice system that delivers timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck emphasised.

It is against this background that the ministry is a significant partner in the Conference, “because we know that a first class justice system cannot exist without the proper care and protection of witnesses”.

He expressed hope that the forum would facilitate stakeholder dialogue on a public awareness campaign to educate the general populace that locating and procuring witnesses is a “shared responsibility”.

“Discussions will range from creating an enabling environment for witness safety and security, to psycho-social interventions and services for witnesses. There will also be a focus on vulnerable witnesses as well as discussions on designing multicare systems that involve different agencies,” the minister said.

These engagements, Chuck pointed out, are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of witnesses.

This, he added, is imperative in spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be motivated to stand and be counted and play their part in creating a society that is secure, cohesive and just.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters, who also spoke, underscored the relationship between the countries in engagements tailored to advance the local justice sector.

“We (Canada) have been a longstanding and steadfast partner with Jamaica, in terms of putting forth, supporting, partnering on a series of reform-focused…reform-centric programmes, all designed to advance a comprehensive and systematic approach to justice modernisation,” Peters said.

In this regard, she said the Canadian government is honoured to be a partner in  the conference’s staging.

The inaugural event is a key activity under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Project.

The project is a $19.8 million Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-funded initiative, being implemented by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.

Peters said the conference forms part of the JUST Programme’s Social Order Component which seeks to facilitate equitable access to justice services for all persons, particularly the most vulnerable.

“It is commendable that Jamaica has understood and embraced the importance of focusing on witnesses at this time,” she added.

In her remarks, UNDP Resident Representative, Denise Antonio, noted that witnesses are integral to the court system, “and should be able to exercise their full participation in civil and criminal matters.”

She pointed out that a well-functioning justice sector is a precondition to spurring economic growth, adding that “equal access to justice by every citizen is tantamount to human development.” 

Against this background, Antonio said the UNDP reaffirms its commitment to partnering with the Government of Jamaica and other stakeholders, “to continue to support the country in advancing its justice priorities.”

Activities on the first day also included a public forum on the theme: ‘Comparative Perspectives on Witness Care: Challenges, Best Practices, and Lessons Learnt’.

The presenters included Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewelyn; and Canadian Federal Court Judge, Justice Douglas Campbell.

The conference, which ended on Saturday, was intended to discuss and advance solutions for the protection and support of witnesses in the Jamaican judicial system.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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End in sight for US heat wave that set temperature records

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States sweltered in dangerously hot weather on Sunday, with major cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington broiling in temperatures that rose into triple digits.

An oppressive heat wave stretching from the Midwestern plains to the Atlantic coast had nearly 150 million people struggling to stay cool in stifling heat that set records in a handful of states.

By Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) said the high temperatures would soon be over, but the severe weather would continue.

“The dangerous heat wave which enveloped much of the Midwest to the East Coast this weekend should finally break by Monday as a cold front drops southward,” the agency said.

However it warned that “showers and thunderstorms… with heavy to excessive rainfall and severe weather possible” were expected across a swath of the east coast, and flash floods were a risk. 

Around 95 million people were under a heat warning or advisory for Sunday, down from Saturday’s 157 million.

Earlier in the day the NWS said “numerous stations” stretching from Massachusetts in the north to North Carolina in the south “were reporting heat index values between 100-110” degrees, with the highest values found in the southeast of the state of Virginia.

Authorities urged people on Sunday to stay hydrated, watch out for the sick and elderly, stay inside as much as possible and not leave children or animals in cars.

“We’re almost near the end of the heat emergency. Temperatures will start to go back down tonight,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, asking the city’s residents to “keep hydrated and keep cool.”

The NWS said it had recorded all-time high temperatures on Saturday in seven places in the US including Manchester, New Hampshire, Atlantic City, New Jersey and New York’s JFK airport.

US media has blamed the heat wave for at least six deaths, including a hiker who had been found unconscious on a trail outside Washington on Saturday and two people who died earlier in the week in the eastern state of Maryland. 

In Arkansas, 32-year-old former NFL player Mitch Petrus died of heatstroke Thursday after working outside his family’s shop. 

The New York City Triathlon, which had been scheduled for Sunday, was canceled for the first time since its founding in 2001.

Life Time, which produces the race, donated more than 12 tons of water and Gatorade Endurance drink meant for competitors to be distributed to New Yorkers in need, CBS reported.

Meanwhile, the two-day OZY Fest — a food, comedy and music festival set for Central Park — was also called off. 

In Washington, a popular weekly outdoor summer jazz concert at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden was canceled.

– ‘Deadly conditions’ –

“Sunday has been canceled. Stay indoors, nothing to see here. Really, we got this,” The New York City Police Department wrote on Twitter.

The city had opened 500 cooling centers for residents.

At least three public defenders said on Twitter that inmates in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex were suffering with no air conditioning, and that some guards had turned off fans as punishment, resulting in “deadly conditions.” 

The Brooklyn Defender Services legal aid group said some inmates didn’t have summer clothing, only long underwear provided by the group last winter.

Top officials from the city’s Department of Corrections were at the facility monitoring the response to the heat wave to “protect health and safety of everyone in the facility,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter. 

The department said in a statement to AFP that extra staff were on hand to distribute summer clothing, and clinics were open around the clock to treat heat-related symptoms. 

Those in units without air conditioning were given access to fans, ice, water and “multiple cool showers.”

Earlier in the week, the National Weather Service office in the Midwestern city of Omaha baked a tray of biscuits — savory breakfast bread similar to scones — on the dashboard of a parked car. 

After nearly eight hours and with temperatures on the pan reaching 185 degrees, the pastries were almost fully cooked.

Climate data showed June was the hottest month on record worldwide, with a heatwave across Europe smashing national records.

 

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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No challenges for Basil Waite in North East St Elizabeth

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BRAES RIVER, Elizabeth- Basil Waite who was selected by delegates in North East St Elizabeth to run as the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate in the next general elections will have no further challenges to his position.

At present, Waite is waiting to be formally introduced by Party Leader, Dr Peter Phillips at the public session of the constituency conference now taking place in Braes River square in this parish.

The seat has been held by businessman the PNP’s Evon Redman since 2016. 

Chairman for the PNP’s Region 5, Hopeton McCatty made it known to OBSERVER ONLINE that he has voluntarily decided not to contest the seat in the next election thereby leaving the way completely clear for Waite.

McCatty said that will make Redman a one term member of parliament and there were two one term MP’s before him.

He suggested that it was amidst controversy Raymond Pryce lost the seat to Redman and it was under similar circumstances Kern Spencer lost to Pryce. 

Supporters of Waite have been hailing him as a hard-working “son of the soil,” who is expected to spend more than one term as the political representative of the constituency. 

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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