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Gov’t turns attention to developing Spanish Town

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Gov’t turns attention to developing Spanish Town

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has outlined plans to make infrastructural repairs and improvements to the historic old capital, Spanish Town, in St Catherine.

Allocation for the improvement work has been made in the 2019-2020 Estimates of Expenditure, a recent release from the Office of the Prime Minister has said.

Speaking on Sunday in Spanish Town at the ‘Ten Thousand Men and their Families March’, which was organised by the churches in the community, Prime Minister Holness said significant repairs will be made to the roads within the town centre and adjoining communities, as well as infrastructural development, including to buildings.

Prime Minister Holness believes that Spanish Town should be a centre of knowledge for visitors and citizens alike to garner a wealth of history about the famous town, the release said.

“You have so many heritage sites that in any other country, this little town would be a tourist destination. There are not many towns within the Caribbean that has the architecture, Victorian and later, that Spanish Town has, and it is a sad thing to see it deteriorating and the citizens not getting the full value of the history.

“The real estate that the prison is on, is valuable estate, and it could well be a museum or some other attraction and, in time, these things will be done,” Prime Minister Holness is quoted.

In the meantime, the prime minister said he has noted that with the discontinuation of the state of public emergency, crime and violence is trending upwards. He outlined the Government’s commitment to restore law and order in Spanish Town.

“The justice system must now split justice and send a signal to the criminal that they cannot maraud through Jamaica and get away with it. I want you to know that I will do everything in my power, and I want you know that I’m trying very hard to ensure that you are safe. It is not an easy job, but we are not daunted, and we will not give up because we know we are right,” said Holness.

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Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo

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Affordable housing to take centre stage at MoBay expo

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — When the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry opens its 2020 expo on March 6, one of the areas of focus will be the need for more affordable housing in western Jamaica.

The discussions, to be spearheaded by Angella Whitter, chamber director and chairperson for ‘Invest MoBay’ and the affordable housing section of the expo, will also bring to light Montego Bay’s ever-growing population, the risks posed by the continued embracing of informal settlements, and the need to find or build affordable houses for low-income workers.

“One of the basic needs of every human being is to have a place to rest their head at nights. Every parent’s role is to ensure that they provide a good base to raise their family,” Whitter, who is also a landowner, developer and business owner, noted.

“That said, Montego Bay has not been able to develop in a structured manner because most communities have not satisfactorily prepared themselves for the need to find adequate homes for the ever-growing population,” she continued.

Whitter, in noting that the tourism capital “has grown leaps and bounds in every sector imaginable”, added that the net result has alarmingly brought on an increase in informal settlements “all over the place”.

She said even developments that were built within a structured framework have now been partially and inadvertently forced into informal settlements.

“What readily comes to mind are developments such as Bogue Village, Rose Vale, Ryne Park, Granville, Irwin Meadows, West Village,” Whitter added.

“These developments were planned and executed. However, if you drive through any one of these developments today, it looks chaotic. The roadway and other infrastructure are inadequate to deal with the [amount] of traffic that goes [in] and out of the communities. This is a challenge. This has caused a significant issue with productive time because persons are held up in traffic to and fro, in order to go about their daily business,” she said.

Whitter, in the meantime, added that another issue has to do with creating environments and developments for what she called the purpose of fostering sound family values.

She said developers, while oftentimes well-intentioned, should rethink the practice of doing developments and making the “lion’s share of those developments” one-bedroom offerings, adding that it sends the wrong message.

“We cannot develop family structures in one-bedroom units. We must look at building two-bedrooms at a bare minimum and provide the grant structures to make them affordable to those needing places to live,” Whitter noted.

She said that the booming hotel sector, which is a driving force behind both the rental and homeownership markets, only reinforces the need for more affordable housing.

“The increase in hotel rooms and jobs in the global services sector has also created a high demand for housing for employees and families,” Whitter added.

For her part, president of the chamber, Janet Silvera, in describing the points raised by Whitter as “very important and thought-provoking”, said the issues surrounding affordable housing will make for a very exciting discussion at the expo.

MoBay Expo 2020 will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James March 6-8. The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), project owners for the 754 affordable housing units for tourism workers in Rhyne Park in the parish, for which ground was broken last August, National Housing Trust (NHT), as well as Victoria Mutual, are major sponsors of the event.

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PM says Gov’t won’t stoop to criminals’ level

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PM says Gov’t won’t stoop to criminals’ level

BY HORACE HINES
Staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has pointed out that in the fight against crime, Government has always been mindful of individuals’ human rights and will never stoop to giving criminals a taste of their own medicine.

“We have to let the criminals know that we will never descend to their level of savagery and incivility,” Prime Minister Holness said. “We are doing what is necessary and we cannot always give in to the very strong impetus to just lash out at crime, because sometimes we feel that we should be harsh and we should take drastic measures.

“The challenge with that, of course, is that we end up violating our own constitution,” he said.

In fact, the prime minister argued that for the past four years, Jamaica has not been accused of any human rights violations.

“There is no international human rights agency that can point a finger at Jamaica’s human rights record over the last two, three, four years. People don’t see that as an achievement, but it is in terms of building the brand of what is Jamaica because… when you do that brand search and brand understanding, you see violence as part of that brand. And so what we don’t want is [for] the State to be contributing to violence in Brand Jamaica,” Holness insisted.

He moved to dispel the notion that the murder rate, which has been escalating for more than four decades, can be suddenly overturned.

“There is a sense in the country that, overnight, that you take up a switch [and] we will be able to reverse all those 40 years of [the] non-stop geometric increase in the murder rate in the country. We are coming from 400 murders over a year, on average, in the 80s, to where we are, and that is not going to change overnight!” said Holness, who was speaking at the official opening of the Jamaica Labour Party’s St James West Central constituency office last Saturday.

“It takes [a] year or more to procure new police cars. It takes a year to train a new kind of squad to deal with issues in this area. You will see the quick reaction force (Elite Quick Response Unit) and that they are now mobile on bikes. It took a little time to train them and get them functional, to put in place SOEs (states of emergency), to have them functioning in the right way; to go through the parliamentary process, it has taken us two years. And you know, I am not going to talk up the results because it seems to me that whenever we do that there appears to be a determination by the criminals to make it otherwise, so leave it as it is.

“And over time we will reduce violence, bring back Jamaica as the peaceful, ‘no problem’ nation that it was,” Holness said.

Last year the police in St James launched a new unit called the Elite Quick Response Unit in an effort to further capitalise on the gains being made under the current state of public emergency in the parish.

The prime minister was speaking at the formal opening of the Jamaica Labour Party’s St James West Central constituency office Saturday night, in the constituency represented by Member of Parliament Marlene Malahoo Forte.

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LOTTERY BATTLE HEATS UP

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LOTTERY BATTLE HEATS UP

Another prominent businessman joins rush for operating licence

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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PROMINENT businessman Gassan Azan has thrown his hat in the ring for a slice of the multibillion-dollar lottery market.

Days after the Jamaica Observer first reported that an entity — which we can now name as Mahoe Gaming Enterprises Limited — has applied to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) for a licence to challenge Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL) in the local lottery market, Azan confirmed that he also wants a of share the lucrative business.

“Based on recent comments from the executive director of the BGLC [Vitus Evans] we believe that we should apply for a licence as well,” Azan told the Observer yesterday.

“We have been operating gaming lounges for more than 10 years now and I have what is called an ‘international fit and proper’ clearance from the BGLC, which means I am qualified to operate a lottery. I believe that if they are going to be issuing licences, I should get one.

“I did not apply before because I was of the opinion that it was the Cabinet which had decided that we would have only one national lottery in the country, but in light of what I have seen recently I want to make my case very clear that we need one as well,” added Azan as he pointed to responses from the BGLC to questions from the Observer last October.

At that time the BGLC had noted that “Section 49 (1) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act confers the authority to the BGLC to grant a licence to any person to promote a lottery. No recommendation to, or approval by, the minister responsible for finance is required.”

The BGLC had also indicated that the law does not require any public consultation on the issue of any gaming licence, although checks by our news team showed that this had been done in the past.

In his letter to the BGLC dated February 18, Azan underscored that his company, Sizzling Slots Limited, has operated a prominent gaming lounge, “The Vault”, for years, and has invested heavily in the technology and human resources necessary to make it a success.

According to Azan, his company has long wanted to leverage its expertise and resources in pursuit of other opportunities in Jamaica’s gaming sector.

“In this regard, over the last few years we have expended substantial resources to research the viability of extending our gaming portfolio to include a lottery product.  The purpose of this letter is to formally indicate our intention to apply for a licence to operate lottery in Jamaica.

“Accordingly, we hereby request that you advise us by reply of the required form and substance of our application for a licence to operate a lottery,” said Azan.  

In the meantime, Michelle Myers Mayne, who chairs Mahoe Gaming — which has already applied for a lottery licence — has declared that competition in the sector will lead to the expansion of the market through innovation and increased consumer offerings.

 
In a letter to the Observer Myers Mayne underscored that Mahoe Gaming is a 100 per cent Jamaican-owned entity under her leadership, with directors Paul B (PB) Scott and Lise-Anne Harris.

“Mahoe Gaming seeks to introduce innovative lottery entertainment products to Jamaica,” said Myers Mayne.

“In accordance with all rules and regulations, Mahoe Gaming has applied, and is in the process of seeking approval for, a lottery licence. We respect the process.

“As investors in the Jamaican economy we respect the independence of the regulator, the BGLC, which is tasked with oversight of the gaming industry for the fair benefit of all concerned,” added Myers Mayne.

In 2018, SVL, the sole operator of a national lottery in Jamaica, raked in almost $63 billion in ticket sales, a 12.3 per cent increase over 2017.

The company also paid out a record $6.9 billion in total fees and taxes to the Government in 2018, representing an increase of approximately $800 million over 2017. The 2019 figures have not yet been released by SVL.

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Sri Lanka to copy OCA’s Internet safety campaign

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Sri Lanka to copy OCA’s Internet safety campaign

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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THE Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is to model the Internet safety campaign of the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) as that country continues to work to improve its cybersecurity.

The development emanates from a presentation by children’s advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, during a recent visit to Qatar, on digital online safety for children.

“It (presentation) really was looking at the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s BeSocial…BeSmart campaign that we did, which had us doing an islandwide intervention in terms of seeing how children are using social media; what sites are they using; what are they posting; what times are they going on; who are they going on with; and what are they saying, because we just wanted to understand what the Jamaican child was doing,” Gordon Harrison told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

“When we got that, we actually did research findings, which we published, which a lot of persons reference now in their studies because the data in Jamaica is very low.

We then went back to the drawing board because we said this publication is very academic and thought about how can we do some specific guides that are more child-friendly and age-appropriate and split out what’s relevant to who. So we did a little one for children under 12, then we did another set for the teenagers, and another one for adults,” she outlined.

The three social media manuals, styled #BESOCIALBESMART, were launched in 2017.

“I went to present on the model and the minister of interior in Sri Lanka was actually so taken by it that Sri Lanka is now going to see if they can model what we have done here, and so we have established that kind of contact because at the end of their process they are going to share with me what it is they have done and intend, in fact, to use our model as a best practice,” Gordon Harrison said.

Under the OCA’s study at the time, it was found that 72 per cent of Jamaican children had access to the Internet at home, while 75 per cent had a Facebook profile.

Another 52 per cent of adolescents had a profile picture, while 53 per cent posted the places they visited frequently, 30 per cent posted phone numbers and 43 per cent shared the names of the schools they attended.

Of the 86 per cent that used social media, only 40 per cent used privacy settings, 43 per cent of students had received messages from strangers which they deemed as inappropriate for their age, while 64 per cent had been contacted by a stranger online in a way which made them feel uncomfortable or scared.

In addition, 63 per cent of boys and 53 per cent of girls had met face-to-face with someone they knew only from online.

In the meantime, government workers on the country’s frontlines are expected to, on Friday, be equipped with a tool — reportedly the first of its kind in the Caribbean — that will assist in spotting and dealing with human traffickers.

Gordon Harrison, who is also the national rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the electronic learning tool will be unveiled to all stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the police, customs officers, and immigration workers during a special launch.

“It’s basically a dongle, like a USB stick… it takes them through, visually, what is human trafficking; what does it look like; what are the signs; what does a perpetrator look like; what does a victim look like; what are the different forms it takes in Jamaica.

“We use cartoon-like images to tell stories of children and adults who have been trafficked and we tell them what to do,” Gordon Harrison told the Observer.

She said individuals invited to Friday’s function will have a first-hand opportunity to use the tool “to see how it works”.

The technology, christened the Human Trafficking E-Learning Tool, was funded by the British High Commission to the tune of $3million.

In October 2019, the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons, an agency of the Ministry of National Security, indicated that 96 victims had been rescued since the establishment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit in 2005, with 36 individuals arrested and charged with human trafficking and related offences. Between 2010 and 2018, more than 750 anti-trafficking operations were carried out, resulting in 82 victims being rescued, 30 suspected traffickers arrested, and three prostitution rings dismantled.

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What J’cans are giving up for Lent

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Meat, nothing and sex: What J’cans are giving up for Lent

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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While many Jamaicans still engage in the tradition of abstinence for the Lenten season — which this year runs from today to Thursday, April 9 — some are adamant that they have no intention of giving up the luxuries they enjoy.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Observer questioned fish vendors in Rae Town and New Forum Fishing Village, as well as some of their customers, on the matter and received some interesting responses.

“I’m giving up meat for Lent, because during Lent you’re not supposed to eat meat. You should eat fish and vegetables,” Rae Town fish vendor Juliet Thompson insisted. Thompson, who said she has been in the business for more than 20 years, was frying fish for a customer, who gave his name as Dennis, when she spoke with the Observer. According to Thompson, she observes the ritual each year.

Her commitment though, was not shared by Dennis, who said he had nothing to give up as he is “not doing anything bad”. Displaying a broad smile, Dennis pointed to the fish being fried, saying that he was taking one home for his wife as the first of his treats to celebrate her birthday. The others in the pot, he said, were for his son.

Well-known Rae Town fish vendor Nambu “Ratty” Thompson, who gained national attention as the first man in the business in that fishing village to accept debit cards, said he had no plans to give up anything for Lent.

“Mi nah give up nutten. Mi waan jus’ give more love and spread more love,” said Thompson.

Cathy, a restaurant operator at New Forum Fishing Village on Fort Augusta Drive, Portmore, was at first hesitant to speak, claiming shyness. However, she eventually said that while she is a bit of a traditionalist, she would not be giving anything up for the period.

Fish vendor Wiggy had a similar view, even though he was more interested in directing the Observer to his friend Cynthia who, while displaying a “hog snapper”, said she was giving up meat for the season.

A customer who gave her name only as Angela said she, too, was giving up meat for Lent.

“This the first [time] I’m gonna do it, so I’m going to try to maintain it. That’s why I’m here. I want 10 pounds of fish because I want to stock up so I won’t have any reason to come back soon,” she said, adding that she had also bought fish earlier in the week.

Another customer, who identified herself as Annie, said while she does not observe the abstinence practice every year, she will be doing so this year, and as such won’t be eating any meat for the season. She, too, was purchasing more fish to add to the eight pounds she already had in her refrigerator at home.

Her friend, who has a similar name, generated laughter when she said she was giving up sex “because it hurts during Lent”.

However, after the laughter subsided, she explained that she does not eat red meat.

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