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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.

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia’s interim leadership says it has broken diplomatic ties with the Government of Venezuelan President Nicols Maduro and ordered Cuban medical teams to leave Bolivia.

The announcement yesterday represents a turnaround in Bolivia’s foreign policy following the resignation of Evo Morales, a socialist who quit after a disputed election that sparked massive protests.

Karen Longaric, the foreign minister of Bolivia’s interim Government, also said the country is leaving the Union of South American Nations, known by its Spanish acronym UNASUR. The group was set up in 2008 by Venezuela’s Hugo Chvez and other leftists to support regional integration efforts and counter US influence in South America.

Longaric also says Bolivia is no longer a part of ALBA, a regional group that espouses socialist ideology.

In the meantime, Bolivia’s interim leader says Evo Morales will have to “answer to justice for electoral fraud” if he returns home.

Jeanine ez made the comment during a news conference yesterday, a day after Morales insisted from asylum in Mexico that he remains the country’s legitimate president because his resignation was forced by the military and wasn’t formally accepted by Congress.

Aez was the top-ranking Senate opposition official when Morales resigned Sunday and says that the resignation of everyone else in the chain of succession left her with the presidency.

Morales left following massive demonstrations across the country alleging fraud in the October 20 presidential election — irregularities certified by a team of auditors from the Organization of American States. Morales had claimed victory in his bid for a fourth term in office.

ez said Morales “left on his own. Nobody threw him out.”

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — A much-lauded overseas medical programme has become the focus of accusations that it serves as cover for fomenting protests against governments opposed by Cuba.

Cuba said yesterday that it’s pulling 700 members of its medical mission to Bolivia after the arrest of four members of the programme, which began under now-exiled President Evo Morales. The four were accused of fomenting protests against the Government that took over from Morales, a Cuban ally.

The end of Cuba’s 400-person medical mission to Ecuador was also announced this week, along with the accusation by Ecuador’s interior minister that Cuba misused official passports to bring in 250 Cubans during protests against President Lenin Moreno, whom Cuba also opposes.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ended his county’s Cuban medical programme after taking office last year.

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Opposition leader tells public servants to accept salary increases

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Opposition leader tells public servants to accept salary increases

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is urging public servants to accept the salary increases announced by the coalition Government earlier this week, saying the payment had already been budgeted for by the David Granger Administration in the last fiscal package.

“I say to the public servants collect their monies, it was budgeted since last year. This is nothing new; they should get their money,” Jagdeo told reporters.

The Government Wednesday announced a new GUY$70,000 minimum wage for public servants.

“In three and a half years, the minimum wage has gone up by over 75 per cent. I think by any stroke of circumstance, that is a significant development and I know that the workers are going to be happy. And I know that they are happier still because in 2018 I first brought in tax-free back pay. I [sought permission from the] Cabinet, they agreed and I continue this year,” said Finance Minister Winston Jordan, adding that the public servants would, this year, will receive a tax-free retroactive salary increase.

Along with their retroactive salaries, the public servants will also receive a minimum wage of GUY$70,000, a nine per cent increase on the current GUY$64,200. He said it represents more than a 77 per cent increase since 2015.

Public servants earning between GUY$100,000 to GUY$999,000 per month will enjoy an 8.5 per cent increase and those earning more than a million dollars per month will get a three per cent hike. All of the increases will be retroactive to January 2019.

Jagdeo told reporters that the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was now more interested in the contracts the Government has been signing, given the fact that it is in a “holding” position after the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled earlier this year that the motion of no-confidence against the Granger Administration passed in the National Assembly last December, is valid.

The CCJ said that in keeping with the Guyana Constitution fresh regional and general elections should be held and President Granger has since announced March 2, 2020 as the date for the polls.

Jagdeo told reporters “It is the contracts that they (the government) are issuing now to their cronies that I warn against”.

He said that while all public servants will benefit from the new salaries, police, soldiers, firefghters, and prison officers are worse off as a result of the decision to cut off the one-month, tax-free salary given to them at the end of the year as a bonus.

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