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PHOTO: Conference break

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(From left) Trudy Dixon, Caribbean sales manager of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB); Judy Hylton, Rotary assistant governor, Jamaica South East; Dr Patrick Adizua, district governor, Rotary District 7020; and Novlet Deans, assistant governor, Jamaica South Central, share a photo op at the welcome reception of the Rotary International District Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus on April 29. The JTB was a sponsor of the conference along with Scotiabank Jamaica, E Y Services, First Heritage Co-Operative Credit Union, National Commercial Bank, among others. The conference, which ends tomorrow, has seen more than 300 overseas Rotarians joining their local counterparts to plan and get updates on service projects and initiatives in the region, as well as report on the collective progress being made by Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.

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NWA wrapping up $29-million roadworks in Port Royal

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THE National Works Agency (NWA) says it is now completing rehabilitation works valued at some $29 million, in Port Royal, as well as major roadways leading into the township.

The infrastructural works, which commenced earlier this month, include drainage improvement, road repair and bushing activities.

NWA communication manager, Stephen Shaw, listed a number of locations that have received attention as part of the works to include the replacement of defective drain gratings along Canon, Cagway and Broad Streets, as well as Port Royal Road in the vicinity of the Norman Manley International Airport.

A fifth grating is to be replaced over a critical drain at New Street, said the NWA.

The physical infrastructure in Port Royal continues to be improved following the maiden birth of a cruise ship at the township’s newly constructed floating pier on Monday.

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Litigants, attorneys encouraged to use mediation to settle cases

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MINISTER of Justice Delroy Chuck is encouraging people involved in lawsuits, and attorneys to utilise mediation to achieve mutual results and to free up the courts.

Chuck, who was addressing a public education symposium in Morant Bay, St Thomas on Wednesday, said he will be embarking on a mission this year to have cases dealt with in a timely manner.

“The Ministry of Justice will be urging litigants and attorneys to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR). We also have to use mediation to get more of these cases settled, so that we complete the process within two or, at most, three years, rather than dragging on for six and more years,” the minister told the symposium.

The forum, which involved justices of the peace, educators, schoolchildren, community leaders and agencies under the justice ministry, was used to provide information to members of the public on the processes in the courts.

Chuck said the justice system is making “strides” and called on stakeholders to give their “full support” to the country’s chief justice, Bryan Sykes, “to achieve this milestone, where the system can be seen as one of the great service providers to the people of Jamaica”.

ADR promotes peace and seeks to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence, while mediation is used to resolve disputes between two or more parties, with a neutral third party serving as mediator, who assists the parties to amicably negotiate a settlement outside of the courts.

The Court Management Service, as part of efforts to educate the public about the procedures of the courts, has been hosting a National Public Education series since 2016.

Under the initiative, stakeholders in the justice sector, and social services are brought together to facilitate discussions on how best to serve the legal and judicial needs of members of the community.

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US$280-m bamboo project to start this year

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HAGUE, Trelawny — State minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green says the US$280-million bamboo project on the former Long Pond Sugar Estate in Trelawny, is expected to get off the ground later this year.

Addressing the launch of the 65th staging of the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show near Falmouth, on Wednesday, Green said the crop will be grown on roughly 2,000 acres of land on the property.

“This project will help us to reduce the use of plastics and styrofoam, and will help in the creation of employment,” the state minister told the gathering.

“You know that all over the world they are looking for biodegradable options, and we have the land, we have the expertise. There are places across the country where bamboo grows wild — we want to make an industry out of bamboo,” he said.

Green added that there are overseas companies that are interested in exporting the bamboo — and its by-products — grown in the island. He noted that the initiative forms part of the Government’s thrust to diversify agriculture in Trelawny.

Up to the 1990’s, sugar cane was the dominant crop grown in the parish. But, in recent years, there has been a significant decline in the cultivation of the crop due to several factors, including the lack of competitiveness of sugar — a by-product of sugar cane — on the world market.

Green noted that Trelawny has witnessed exponential investments in the tourism sector, citing the expansion of Royalton White Sands Beach Hotel, the construction of Excellence Hotel, the 1,000- room H10 Hotel, the cruise shipping pier, and the Amaterra 800-room development.

He lamented, however, that domestic crop production has not kept pace with the demand for agricultural produce.

“As we see the growth in the rooms in the parish, which will clearly lead to a growth in visitors, we have to ensure that we have the growth in agriculture to supplement the growth in visitors and rooms.

“The reality is that, part of the truth we have to change is that we see that tourism is growing but we don’t see a commensurate rise in the agricultural numbers. But we know that the people must eat, so it therefore suggests that the people are being fed by importation, and that is part of the reality that we have to change,” Green argued.

He challenged the Trelawny farmers to diversify their crops.

The state minister noted that the Government is taking steps to reduce the $40-billion annual food import bill for the tourism sector, citing the Tourism Linkages Council and an online platform that “allows farmers to put what you have to offer and the hotels can link with you directly”.

Green pointed out that the Government is also moving to reduce the cost of irrigation and will dispatch 30 district constables across the island “to help and focus solely on praedial larceny”, adding that 10 motor vehicles will also be allocated to the Praedial Larceny Unit.

“We are really moving to strengthen the Praedial Larceny Unit. In fact, our priority for 2020 is to strengthen the unit so that when you go out to farm, you can farm in peace,” he told the gathering.

This year’s staging of the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show will be held under the theme: ‘Agricultural Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change’.

Vice-chair of the planning committee, Tova Hamilton, in her remarks, stressed the importance of agriculture to Trelawny, as she called for more investments in that sector.

“It is no secret that Trelawny is poised for growth and is, arguably, one of the parishes that can provide the gateway to economic development with the existence of the historic Falmouth Cruise Pier, its Georgian architecture and the recent construction boom in tourist accommodations,” she noted.

“Based on these factors, it is my belief that there ought to be symbiotic growth in our agriculture sector,” Hamilton continued.

She argued that, in an effort to achieve transformational growth, it is imperative that events such as the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show must be promoted as a means of marketing the industry as a viable career choice, especially for the youth.

“It is also important as a parish that we place development of our agricultural sector at the nucleus of all our operations,” she added.

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Cop hit down while doing traffic duties

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THE police high command has condemned yesterday’s incident in which a constable was mowed down by a public passenger vehicle at the intersection of Trafalgar Road and Worthington Avenue in St Andrew.

“The constable, who was conducting traffic management duties at the intersection, reportedly signalled the driver of a Toyota Wish motor car to stop, after the driver committed a traffic infraction,” the constabulary’s Corporate Communication Unit (CCU) said last night.

Added the CCU: “The driver reportedly slowed down before accelerating the vehicle into the path of the constable, running him over and crushing one of his legs. He is being treated for injuries at hospital.”

The policeman is likely to undergo an operation today.

In the meantime, the police high command has urged the driver to turn himself in to the police immediately.

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Witness says army fatigue, masks found near alleged gangsters’ homes

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A police witness has described items of clothing, including masks purportedly worn by members of the Westmoreland-based King Valley gang during their exploits, as being “in good condition and were being worn”.

The cop, who was one of three lawmen called to give evidence in the trial of eight men alleged to be members of the gang in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, yesterday told the court that the items were found during a May 2018 operation in the King Valley community of Grange Hill. The operation took place “as a result of an increase in criminal activities happening in the general space, and men from the King Valley gang were persons of interest”, the officer said.

The eight men — Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Lindell Powell, alias Lazarus; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; Hopeton Sankey, alias Bigga; Christon Grant, alias Ecoy; Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac; and Sean Suckra, also called Elder — are charged in an indictment containing 11 counts.

According to the policeman, the first find was made during a search of the two-bedroom board structure that was home to Sean Suckra.

“While there, I observed a square hole in the [ceiling] of the roof; I then took a chair and stood, and with the assistance of a flashlight looked over and I saw two masks,” the witness told the court, adding that “a Tommy Lee Vendetta mask and a Halloween mask”, were retrieved and shown to Suckra.

“I said to him, ‘A dem mask ya yuh use when yuh a go rob an kill people?’ He held down his head and said, ‘Mi nah kill nobody, boss’,” the witness told the court.

He said after searching that premises, the police team proceeded to search another for accused Derval Williams, but came up empty-handed as he was not at his dwelling. A search of bushes in the vicinity of the men’s houses, however, yielded a “duffel bag containing army fatigue clothing and masks, army fatigue camouflage pants, a long-sleeved camouflage army jacket, an army cap, a camouflage tam with two eye holes, a green balaclava, a pair of black gloves, a pair of elbow pads, a black belt, and an army-coloured water bottle” hidden in an old car, the witness told the court.

He said he then asked Suckra, who was by that time in the back of a police pickup, if he knew about them.

“He said no, he live around the other side,” the witness said.

The witness told the court that the articles were taken to the police station and placed in a black plastic bag and stored under lock and key in his office.

The prosecution’s main witness, giving testimony in the early days of the trial last week from a remote location via live video link, had claimed that members of the gang, including himself, wore masks, gloves and army suits, as well as hooded pullovers while carrying out various robberies and murders. He also told the court that these items were kept hidden in an old car, in bushes, and at their homes. He said the men’s mode of travelling was usually by motorcycle.

When the prosecution moved to have the two masks put into evidence as exhibits, defence attorney Everton Bird objected, stating: “I wonder whether the prosecution has laid sufficient foundation for revealing them at this point based on the words of the officer… before taking them out and surprising us.”

He argued that it had not been sufficiently established by the prosecution which alleged members of the gang were said to have worn masks and queried whether Suckra had been named as one of the individuals who wore a mask.

Trial Judge Justice Bryan Sykes, following that observation, wanted to know: “How would this become an exhibit at this stage?”

The prosecutor leading the evidence replied: “The witness indicated to the court that masks were worn. It is evidence also that the men he said were part of the King Valley gang, they wore masks also. Also, Mr Suckra, who the witness indicated is a member of the gang, it is at his home that these masks were found.”

Said Justice Sykes, “So your argument is that the witness said he wore masks, including Mr Suckra?”

“He said ‘we’, mi lord”, the prosecutor replied.

“But he said some of the gang members are dead. We, as a matter of grammar, could have included the witness and at least one other person to get the plural ‘we’,” Justice Sykes noted, reading from his own notes before pointing out that Suckra was not among those listed by the main witness as one of those who wore masks.

Prosecutors then asked for the items to be marked A and B for identification, instead of as exhibits. In the meantime, the prosecution is to recall the main witness to identify the masks.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Alexander Shaw, holding for Denise Hinson, Suckra’s lawyer, sought to prove that the witness had attempted to incriminate Suckra.

“You said you asked Mr Suckra about the masks you found in his house, would his answer have been relevant?” Shaw pressed.

“Could be,” the witness responded.

“At what point would you determine its relevance?” Shaw questioned further.

“Upon writing the statement,” the witness replied.

“Do you rely upon your memory when writing the statement?” the attorney wanted to know.

When the witness replied, “Yes”, Shaw said: “But… you would agree that nowhere in your statement did you include any question to Mr Suckra about the masks.”

When the witness replied, “At the time I didn’t think it was necessary,” Shaw responded: “At the time you were making your statement you didn’t remember any conversation between yourself and Mr Suckra because there was none.”

He further contended that the police officer had neither labelled nor sealed the items, and could not be certain the items shown to the court were the same ones originally found.

Another police witness, who took the stand later that day, told the court that he, in March of 2018, acting on intelligence, found Suckra at a nightclub in Savanna-la-Mar and had taken him into custody on suspicion of having a firearm in his possession. He said Suckra, when cautioned, said: “Unnu a waste unnu time.”

The trial resumes today.

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Samuda says action will be taken in CMU matter, if required

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Samuda says action will be taken in CMU matter, if required

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 24, 2020

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MINISTER without portfolio with responsibility for education Karl Samuda has indicated that, if the law has to be called in based on the findings of the auditor general’s special report on the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and the education ministry, justice will be allowed to take its course.

“Whatever mistakes have been made that would accrue to persons who were responsible then obviously, if it requires action by the authorities, then that action must be taken,” Samuda told journalists yesterday afternoon following a meeting with staff at the CMU.

Asked if he would be prepared to call in the police if it becomes necessary, he stated: “We all know that mistakes have been made, what is important is to reflect on where you went wrong and to chart a course in a positive way as to how best to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and to improve on the methods that were applied when they were going wrong.”

The tabling of the special report in the House of Representatives on Tuesday was surrounded by controversy, after a week of the leaked report being dissected in the media.

Samuda stressed that there should be no fear about the future of the CMU, as the institution is strong and manned by competent people.

“The morale of the students, from all indications, is very high, [and] the morale of the teachers, although they are concerned… We are picking up the pieces in a positive way, we cannot be stymied by our determination to dwell entirely on the past,” he stated.

He said the procurement issues laid out in the auditor general’s report would be addressed as well as the fall down in the reporting mechanism between CMU and the education ministry. “We have put in place a system which will see the quick reparation of those reports for tabling through the Cabinet to Parliament,” he said.

Permanent Secretary Dr Grace McLean indicated that the 2015/2016 annual report will be ready by end of April, and the others by the end of May.

The auditor general said the CMU’s Council had not faithfully prepared and submitted to respective permanent secretaries and portfolio ministers, half-yearly and annual reports nor audited financial statements.

Next Monday, the proposed membership for a new CMU Council is to be submitted to Cabinet.

“I expect that as soon as that is done then the board will meet and they will look at all the records that are available and they will be briefed by the acting president and other heads of department, and from there they will make the appropriate decisions,” the portfolio minister said.

Meanwhile, he said the staff was concerned about the lack of information flow between them and the leadership of the institution on issues such as contracts and general working conditions.

“We are far along the way of solving most of the problems that they are confronted with. We have suggested that going forward there has to be closer interaction between the leadership of the organisation and the workers,” he said.

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