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Courts Jamaica celebrates 60th anniversary

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COURTS, owned and operated by Unicomer Jamaica Limited, celebrated 60 years of operation with a church service on May 5, and an islandwide Customer Appreciation Day on May 15.

The church service, moderated by the Rev Al Miller under the theme “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness”, saw the attendance of Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, representing the prime minister; MP Julian Robinson, representing the Opposition leader; as well as Unicomer Jamaica managing director, Dennis Harris.

Addressing the congregation, Harris underscored the value of commitment of customers and staff to the success of Courts over the years. “Like the many iconic accomplishments in the past 60 years, Courts Jamaica has cemented itself in history as being an iconic brand, achieving remarkable success, all made possible with the commitment of everyday Jamaicans,” he said.

On May 15, the company celebrated with a grand islandwide celebration. At their first store in Cross Roads, 79- 81A Slipe Road, customers were greeted on a red carpet. During the day, the valued customers were treated to refreshment, fun activities and tokens, giveaways of 60 goodie bags, entertainment, and refreshment. The first six customers who celebrated their 60th birthday in May were gifted with recliners.

“As we continue to bask in the celebrations of our 60th year, we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to our customers who have made us the furniture, appliance, electronics, eyewear, and loans choice. We look forward to meeting their needs and giving back to the communities in which we operate for decades to come,” Courts said.

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We were losing

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We were losing

Seprod CEO Pandohie says sugar factory closure was final option

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

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Chief executive officer (CEO) of Seprod Limited, Richard Pandohie says the company has paid out $55 million in redundancy packages to workers at Golden Grove Sugar Factory in Duckenfield, St Thomas.

The disclosure was made in an interview with the Jamaica Observer North & East following an announcement by Seprod to shut down operations there.

Pandohie said while the country’s sugar industry is in trouble, the decision to close the factory stems from the loss of the preferential trade agreement with the European Union.

“That’s the fact. Everything else is noise. The sugar industry is basically downsizing to the domestic requirements. In our case at Golden Grove, it has been one of continuous losses. We tried our best, we created a brand; we were the biggest exporter of sugar out of the country, in terms of retail,” Pandohie explained.

He said there were several other issues which contributed to the decision to close the factory, some self-inflicted.

“Not all the decisions were the best decisions but the environment was one, [with] this factory being the smallest factory in the sugar industry in Jamaica, and one that had inherent inefficiencies. We were the only factory that was on the JPS (Jamaica Public Service) grid, for example, instead of supplying our own energy. All this combined to make it untenable and we were just sustaining heavy losses,” the CEO noted.

“I think it’s over $4 billion in losses. It’s just unsustainable. What it was doing was hampering our ability to invest in other businesses and new businesses. So this is just a way to remove what has been a very expensive weight off our foot to allow us to cut the bleeding, to cut the cash loss, and to basically create better value for shareholders and hopefully help us with new acquisition opportunities,” Pandohie added.

He said Seprod is always looking for opportunities for agro-processing and that the company has been on record to say it is looking to get into gluten flour, using cassava and sweet potato to target international markets.

“A number of farmers have gone into cassava and we’re looking to put down a factory to process cassava flour. The largest cane farmer in Jamaica has already started converting and growing cassava. So it’s a real project and one that we’re to pursue,” he said, adding that that is the direction Seprod is heading in to have a factory in St Thomas.

“Even before the factory, the Government has announced a series of projects in St Thomas. You have the Factories Corporation [of Jamaica] putting down the new project where Goodyear [Factory] was. You have significant road construction projects about to start. We’ve heard a lot of talk around residential housing going to St Thomas, so there is going to be a series of economic activities in St Thomas where we’re hopeful, as Jamaicans, that a lot of people will be absorbed into that. If and when the factory comes on board of course, as long as the talent and resource are there, the first priority will be to use people from in the area. But I believe St Thomas is going to actually need more people to come into the communities to fulfil all of the economic activities that have been announced,” he added.

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Audio-visual tech-fitted buses to secure testimonies from witnesses

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THE Ministry of Justice will be providing two buses, equipped with audio-visual technology, to assist in securing testimonies 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, The University of the West Indies, Mona, St Andrew, last Friday.

Chuck said other initiatives include equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities and 19 with audio-visual 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 the 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 psychosocial interventions and services for witnesses. There will also be a focus on vulnerable witnesses, as well as discussions on designing multi-care 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 long-standing 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-funded initiative, being implemented by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme.

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 individuals, particularly the most vulnerable.

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

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.

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Waite gets ringing endorsements in St Elizabeth NE

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BRAES RIVER, St Elizabeth — Thoughts of the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) internal presidential campaign were never far away.

However, Comrades focused on Basil Waite at yesterday’s formal launch of his bid here to become the next Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern whenever general elections are called.

The seat is currently held by the PNP’s Evon Redman, who has long indicated he will not be seeking re-election after completing his single term.

“This is about PNP unity; we not thinking about internal campaign right now,” claimed Councillor Everton Fisher (PNP, Balaclava Division).

There were discordant notes though, that were completely unrelated to the challenge to party President Dr Peter Phillips by former Cabinet Minister Peter Bunting.

A message from Redman, absent due to family commitments, was met with derisive shouts of “No” from the large crowd.

Redman, in his message read by Region Five Chairman Hopeton McCatty, said the “transition” of the constituency leadership had not always been smooth, but he and Waite were “working at it”.

Waite got ringing endorsements, including from his brother, Councillor Mugabe Kilimanjaro (Ipswich Division, St Elizabeth north-estern), who jarringly insisted that his brother had been “sabotaged” for years by elements in the PNP.

By press time the meeting had briefly taken on the look of a stage show as Comrades awaited the arrival of Dr Phillips, who was scheduled to deliver the main presentation.

St Elizabeth North Eastern is traditionally among the rural strongholds of the PNP.

Waite is set to be challenged by businessman Delroy Slowley, representing the JLP, whenever parliamentary elections are called.

— Garfield Myers

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