Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 'My uncle is a Obeah man', Montague warns criminals http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Keep-lawyers-on-speed-dial--Montague-tells-criminals KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Minister of National Security Robert Montague today challenged criminals to keep their lawyers on speed dial as the security forces will be pursuing them relentlessly and without fear.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Oonu goin run weh because we goin to pursue oonu. This minister no fraid a oonu, my uncle is a Obeah man,&rdquo; he warned, evoking an outburst of laughter among attendees at an interactive session with heads of security held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.<br /> <br /> Montague said a number of criminals go about with New Testament Bibles in their back pockets and guard rings claiming that &ldquo;when dem turn the ring (Senior Superintendent of Police) Mr [Steve] McGregor, dem disappear an police cyaan see dem&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> However, he noted that a new 304-bed facility is being constructed at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre, and said &ldquo;Commissioner [of Corrections Ina] Hunter a fix up a nice place fi dem&hellip; and we need people to occupy them&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> The security minister yesterday told the Jamaica Observer that his Administration is &ldquo;moving to rationalise and improve the prison conditions in the country&rdquo; while reducing the number of incarcerated individuals. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13462794/Robert-Montague_AL--1-_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 3:55 PM 1 Montague, JCF regret loss of lives, but warn suspects against engaging police http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Montague--JCF-regret-loss-of-lives--but-warn-suspects-against-engaging-police-------_86745 The police high command and National Security Minister Robert Montague yesterday expressed regret at the loss of lives in the exchange between the security forces and gangsters in St James on Saturday. At the same time, they both made it clear that law enforcers will not cower when gunmen engage them.<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) outlined its position in a statement, while Montague spoke in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.<br /> <br /> Both were reacting to what was said to have been a fierce gun battle between a joint police-military team and six members of the feared Ski Mask Gang in Goodwill, St James.<br /> <br /> The police reported that about 9:00 pm on Saturday, law men, strategically positioned on a section of the Goodwill main road, signalled the driver of a Toyota Corolla motor car in which the gangsters were travelling, to stop. The vehicle came to a halt, but the occupants exited and fired at the security forces. The fire was returned, and when the shooting subsided the six were found with gunshot wounds. They were taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead. <br /> <br /> Police identified them as Oswyn Jarrett, o/c Ski-Mask, who is said to be the leader of the gang; Dino Pryce, o/c Buju; Marlon Samuels, o/c Brutus; Andre Daley, o/c Pops; and two other men who have been identified by their aliases Fargo and Shenkay. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;This gang has terrorised the residents of Barrett Town and neighbouring communities for several years,&rdquo; the police said. &ldquo;They are responsible for over 20 murders and shootings of citizens to include women and children.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The police said the men have also fire-bombed homes and sexually assaulted women and children, forcing scores of residents to flee the community.<br /> <br /> Yesterday, Montague said it was &ldquo;regrettable that there has been so much loss of life&rdquo;. He said that on more than one occasion the police had confronted the gangsters in the Barrett Town area but did not return fire because they were in close quarters to residents.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;However, if a criminal points a gun at the police, the police will use the appropriate force to repel the threat,&rdquo; he warned. &ldquo;I therefore want to urge all Jamaicans, especially the dutty criminal dem, do not point a gun on my police.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He said the police have been taught to respect everybody&rsquo;s rights, &ldquo;but the dutty criminal must know that if they point a gun at the police, the police have been trained to use the appropriate force to repel that threat on behalf of the State&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The JCF, in its statement, said had the men surrendered, &ldquo;they would have been arrested, taken into custody, and charged with illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. Regrettably, they chose to violently confront the security forces&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> The police pointed to what they said was an increasing pattern of violent attacks on the constabulary and military by criminal suspects, many of whom have escaped capture. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Unfortunately, on this occasion, those who were emboldened by these previous instances confronted the security forces and met their demise,&rdquo; the police said.<br /> <br /> The police also said they recovered a Ruger P89 9mm pistol, a Mini-Thunder 9mm pistol, a single-action Browning pistol, and a HS 9mm pistol as well as a number of magazines and a quantity of ammunition.<br /> <br /> The high command expressed regret at the fatal shootings but reminded that in carrying out their lawful duties the police have no choice but to defend themselves against criminal attacks. The incident has been reported to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and the Bureau of Special Investigations. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We again instruct suspects and wanted persons to desist from violent confrontation with the police, and instead to peacefully turn themselves in, with the assistance of family, clergy or their attorney,&rdquo; the statement said, adding that the JCF is &ldquo;committed to the apprehension and prosecution of criminal suspects, allowing them to go before a court of law to answer for their acts of criminality&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The JCF noted that, in 2016, a total of 1,436 individuals were arrested for breaches of the Firearms Act, 854 for illegal possession of firearm, and 582 for the illegal possession of ammunition. <br /> <br /> Montague said that over the last two quarters, more than 80 per cent of the cases investigated by INDECOM showed that the police acted within the boundaries of the law.<br /> <br /> He said that of the 70 cases investigated by INDECOM in the last quarter, 65 resulted in no charges being filed against the police. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13509199/RAF_6--2-_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 1 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576282/Montaque-ld.jpg Manchester Municipal Corporation to launch corruption hotline http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Manchester-Municipal-Corporation-to-launch-corruption-hotline_86654 MANDEVILLE, Manchester &mdash; Newly elected chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, Donovan Mitchell, has said that a hotline to deal with corruption will be installed as his organisation works to serve the citizens of the parish.<br /> <br /> As part of the modus operandi for his administration &ldquo;rebuilding trust, mainstreaming integrity and time management&rdquo; are critical, Mitchell said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;On (the) matter of building trust and integrity I just want to say to the public that we will be installing a 1-800- CORRUPT line for the citizens to lodge their complaints, to also bring to our attention illegal buildings, dumping of garbage in drains and gullies, to deal with the officers&rsquo; behaviour on the road, and also to just tell us what is going on and for their suggestions,&rdquo; he said at last Thursday&rsquo;s monthly meeting of the corporation.<br /> <br /> Mitchell told the Jamaica Observer that the corruption hotline is expected to be in place in another six weeks, telling the meeting that communication is fundamental to building trust.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As far as practicable, the committees will be open to the public. The decisions of the committees will be posted on the (corporation&rsquo;s) website. Our budget will be posted on the website that people can look at it and make their comments. We will continue to have our town hall meetings in all divisions, we will proceed with our quarterly reports and we will now send e-reports to agencies. We have people that have interest because the people of this parish must know what is going on, on their behalf,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Mitchell said that when contracts are awarded that information will also be placed on the organisation&rsquo;s website and correspondence should be responded to within 72 hours, if even just to acknowledge that it was received and was getting attention.<br /> <br /> The new mayor, meanwhile, said that there is an &ldquo;open door policy&rdquo;, especially to members of the public.<br /> <br /> Thursday&rsquo;s meeting was the first regular monthly meeting of the corporation since Mitchell, who is the People&rsquo;s National Party councillor for the Royal Flat Division in Manchester Central, took on the role of mayor.<br /> <br /> He encouraged his fellow councillors and staff to be committed to their duties.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I urge councillors and officers alike as we move into this new administrative year that all of us will put our best foot forward and to bring back the Manchester Municipal Corporation to where it was at one time as the premier corporation in Jamaica,&rdquo; said Mitchell.<br /> <br /> The reputation of the Manchester Municipal Corporation came into question during the last administration when a joint investigation into corruption allegations of the organisation by the Office of the Contractor General, Financial Investigation Division and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) led to the arrest and charge of two employees.<br /> <br /> The accused are Sanja Elliott, who was deputy superintendent for the Road and Works Department and temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts.<br /> <br /> Dwayne Sibbles, who was employed by Elliott as a caretaker, was also charged.<br /> <br /> MOCA alleged that the Manchester Municipal Corporation employees used their positions to misappropriate funds for their benefit and to allegedly enrich their associates.<br /> <br /> The matter is currently before the Manchester Parish Court. The men are now out on bail but are scheduled to return to answer to the charges on May 17.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576237/252917_79710_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 2 Baptist minister replaces Moravian as prayer breakfast speaker http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Baptist-minister-replaces-Moravian-as-prayer-breakfast-speaker_86702 CHAIRMAN of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast Committee Rev Dr Stevenson Samuels announced that Rev Dr Burchell Taylor, pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Kingston, will be the new speaker at the <br /> <br /> 2017 National Leadership Prayer Breakfast. <br /> <br /> Dr Taylor replaces Moravian Bishop Stanley Clarke, who withdrew as speaker last week because of a sex scandal rocking his organisation.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Rev Taylor has had a long and distinguished record of service to the church in Jamaica and to the wider Jamaican community. His record of service is complemented by a special capacity to provide inspired biblical preaching, based on sound interpretation of scriptures and the application of the Bible to the human condition,&rdquo; Dr Samuels said yesterday.<br /> <br /> He noted that Dr Taylor was the speaker at the first National Leadership Prayer Breakfast held in January 1981.<br /> <br /> The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast Committee said it is grateful to Dr Taylor for agreeing to serve at such short notice, and invited the church to support him with their prayers &ldquo;as he prepares to speak to the church and the nation at this challenging time&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast will be held this Thursday at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, under the theme, &ldquo;God-Empowered Intervention for Transformation&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12062160/IMG_20150807_091602_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 3 We&rsquo;re not intimidated, church tells Spanish Town gunmen http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/We-re-not-intimidated--church-tells-Spanish-Town-gunmen_86314 The Christian community in Spanish Town says it is not afraid of gunmen who are plaguing the old capital and has vowed that it will not lose its battle against the criminals.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The church has a role, the church has a responsibility; we will not be intimidated,&rdquo; Reverend Cavon Campbell told guests at a forum inside the Twickenham Park Open Bible Complex in Spanish Town, St Catherine, last week.<br /> <br /> During his address, Campbell argued that God has never lost a battle and He doesn&rsquo;t intend to lose one in Spanish Town.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are not a trouble-free community, but He is our refuge in time of trouble,&rdquo; Campbell continued, urging the capacity audience to return to the rock and &ldquo;ban yu belly and bawl&rdquo; to God for divine intervention.<br /> <br /> The forum, held under the theme &lsquo;We bring our city before God&rsquo;, was among the activities being hosted by the Spanish Town Ministers&rsquo; Fraternal in an attempt to combat crime and violence in the old capital, and place focus on the role of the family.<br /> <br /> Councillor George Moodie, who spoke on behalf of Member of Parliament Olivia &ldquo;Babsy&rsquo; Grange, said, &ldquo;Nothing is wrong with Spanish Town, nothing is wrong with Portmore, nothing is wrong with Montego Bay. What is wrong is with the heart of men.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Every gunman has a family, every rapist has a father, every child molester has a child, every boss who manipulates his workers has a family,&rdquo; Moodie said, noting that the change has to begin with the family.<br /> <br /> Last year, the nation was rocked by the brutal murder of three children and two adults in March Pen in the parish.<br /> <br /> Salesha Evans, 24, and her nine-year-old son Revaughn Evans; Venisha Bartley, 22, and her two-year-old daughter Koyandra Wynter; and 14-year-old Marvin Campbell Jr were killed by gunmen who swooped down on their houses, sprayed the homes with bullets, and set the structures ablaze.<br /> <br /> Coordinator of the forum, Bishop Dr Rohan Edwards, told the Jamaica Observer that the annual event has seen some successes, despite the recent spate of violence in Spanish Town.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We got to a level last year where we saw the whole reversal of crime and violence, where the police was reporting on a 50 per cent decline in crime and violence, especially murder,&rdquo; Edwards said.<br /> <br /> Edwards, who is hopeful that Spanish Town will return to its former glory, said that the Annual Day of Prayer and Fasting is designed to reverse crime and violence in the old capital.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Spanish Town is one of the communities that has been under serious attack because of the gang running. The church has seen the necessity of coming together on a day like this. This is our fifth staging where we are hosting this programme as a combined effort to reverse the spate of violence that the community has been facing,&rdquo; Edwards said. <br /> <br /> Assistant Superintendent of Police Fitz Albert Linton, who brought greetings on behalf of St Catherine North Police Division, said that despite the challenges the church and the JCF face, they will overcome. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;But one thing we believe is that a nation that stands under God will overcome them,&rdquo; Linton said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13392138/172053_64400_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 3 Government improving prison conditions, says Montague http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Government-improving-prison-conditions--says-Montague_86740 Robert Montague admits that Jamaican prisons need upgrading. In fact, the national security minister will tell you that he believes the island deserves a new state-of-the-art correctional facility. But the Government, he says, does not have the money to construct one.<br /> <br /> So, having rejected a &Acirc;&pound;25-million offer from England towards the building of a new prison here, Montague, when pressed on what the Jamaican Government intends to do, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the Administration is &ldquo;moving to rationalise and improve the prison conditions in the country&rdquo; while reducing the number of incarcerated individuals.<br /> <br /> According to Montague, an audit of all prisoners has been completed, therefore, &ldquo;No one will be lost in the system again.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> In addition, a reclassification of inmates &ldquo;will be completed in another week or two&rdquo; allowing the authorities to fit low-risk prisoners &ndash; those serving time for minor offences &ndash; with electronic bracelets and have them serve their sentences under house arrest.<br /> <br /> An upgrade of the South Camp Correctional Centre, he said, is near completion and the plan is for the inmates now housed at Fort Augusta to be transferred to South Camp, after which Fort Augusta will be closed.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are about to open a new 300-bed facility at Tamarind Farm. The JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) is putting in the finishing touches. The bulk of the residents there will be the reclassified prisoners from Tower Street (Adult Correctional Centre),&rdquo; Montague said.<br /> <br /> The national security minister said that by law judges can only send convicts to two prisons &ndash; Tower Street, more popularly known as General Penitentiary, and St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;That is why there is the overcrowding,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;re moving to amend the law to allow the judges to send convicts to all of the penal institutions... those orders will be brought to Parliament and gazetted in very short order.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> According to Montague, Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Mary and New Broughton Sunset Adult Correctional Centre in Manchester, where men 55 years and older are incarcerated, are housing less than half their capacity. That, he said, will change with the reclassification programme and the amendment to the law.<br /> <br /> At the same time, Montague said that a social intervention programme that exposes inmates to literacy, skills training and the board game chess, has been implemented.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to give people the skills that they don&rsquo;t come back, because 47 per cent of our inmates are returnees,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, while we know we need a prison, we&rsquo;re taking short and medium-term steps to rationalise the prison population. The key is to have less criminals, and that is why the prime minister will be announcing shortly a major unattached male intervention programme that will treat with that problem to stem the flow of young men getting into crime,&rdquo; Montague said. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve done work at almost every prison and police lock-up to improve the conditions &ndash; ventilation, cell conditions and equipment &ndash; but we can move only as fast as the resources become available,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not unmindful of the conditions, but the taxpayer is overburdened, and we are moving with haste to correct the situation; but we urge every Jamaican to speak to members of their family, to stay away from a life of crime,&rdquo; Montague said.<br /> <br /> &ndash; Vernon Davidson<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13480213/245153_71688_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM Y http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576281/245153_sld.jpg 03 4 Trafigura appeal expected to start today http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Trafigura-appeal-expected-to-start-today_86734 LAWYERS representing People&rsquo;s National Party&rsquo;s (PNP) officers in the Trafigura case are today expected to begin their appeal of the 2011 Supreme Court ruling for the interrogation of party leader and officials be done in open court.<br /> <br /> The matter was scheduled to be heard yesterday but was postponed due to the hearing of another matter.<br /> <br /> Dutch officials want to question party leader Portia Simpson Miller, party Chairman Robert Pickersgill, former Cabinet ministers Phillip Paulwell and Colin Campbell, as well as businessman Norton Hinds in relation to a $31-million donation given to the PNP in 2006 by Dutch firm Trafigura Beheer, which had an oil lifting agreement with Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The questioning is part of Dutch authorities&rsquo; probe of alleged bribery allegation by the company.<br /> <br /> Attorneys for the PNP have unsuccessfully argued that their clients&rsquo; constitutional rights would be breached if they were compelled to give evidence in the Dutch authorities&rsquo; investigation of the $31-million donation. Following the official ruling by Justice Lennox Campbell in 2011 for the party officials to be questioned publicly, the matter was taken to the Court of Appeal.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/7457690/Portia_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Montague says J&rsquo;can taxpayers would have had to fund bulk of UK-proposed project http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Montague-says-J-can-taxpayers-would-have-had-to-fund-bulk-of-UK-proposed-project_86728 The cost to taxpayers plus the fact that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had made a campaign promise were the main factors that influenced the Government&rsquo;s rejection of a deal from Britain to help build a new prison here, National Security Minister Robert Montague told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The cost of the facility is &pound;40-plus million, the gift is &pound;25 million. Jamaica and the taxpayers of Jamaica would have to find the rest. That would call for increased taxes on the already overburdened taxpayers,&rdquo; Montague responded when the<br /> <br /> Observer asked for an explanation of the decision.<br /> <br /> Last Friday, foreign affairs Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith told the Senate that the Government had decided not to accept the offer made by then British Prime Minister David Cameron during his two-day working visit to Jamaica in September 2015.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This Administration does not believe that the terms offered would be beneficial to Jamaica, as a whole,&rdquo; Senator Johnson Smith said.<br /> <br /> While Cameron had not stated the cost of the prison, British media reported that his Government would spend &pound;25 million on the project that would effectively end a deadlock in negotiations over a prisoner transfer deal between London and Kingston that would see Jamaicans incarcerated in England completing their sentences here.<br /> <br /> The figure was later confirmed by the then Jamaican Government, which also said the offer was a good deal for the country.<br /> <br /> At the time, then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said that the deal would only serve the interests of the UK, whose citizens would save millions of pounds by sending home nearly 600 Jamaicans incarcerated in their prisons.<br /> <br /> Holness had also said that the money would have been better spent on education.<br /> <br /> Yesterday, Montague reiterated that the JLPs&rsquo; position on the matter had been consistent from the time it became public.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When the honourable prime minister of Great Britain, our good friend, was here, the then leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness, was very clear with the Jamaica Labour Party&rsquo;s position with regards to this gift,&rdquo; Montague said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;On the campaign trail we were equally clear and consistent. A promise was made, and a promise has been kept. We are, however, mindful of the sensitivities... We view the British as our friends and brothers &ndash; partners. They are our oldest trading partners. We have many ties to Britain, and we are very hopeful that this will not sour the relations going forward,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Montague said that the prisoner transfer proposal also help to influence the Government&rsquo;s decision as many of the incarcerated individuals have no social or family ties to Jamaica.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They would be left to be a burden on the State, and to be easy recruits for gangs, exacerbating our already precarious crime position,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;With these considerations, the Government of Jamaica, after long and hard examination, came to the conclusion that it is not in Jamaica&rsquo;s best interest at this time,&rdquo; Montague added.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We would be happy to receive the &pound;25 million to be invested into education or social intervention programmes so that we can get our unattached males into productive enterprises to build the nation, and to stem the flow of young men into gangs, or prevent them from migrating so they can play a productive role in their country,&rdquo; the minister said.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12440383/general-penitentairy_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM Y http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576273/filenamesld.jpg 01 4 Cotton tree falls on house, killing father and daughter http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cotton-tree-falls-on-house--killing-father-and-daughter-_86736 OCHO RIOS, St Ann &mdash; There were expressions of grief, shock and even superstition when the Jamaica Observer visited Buckfield in Ocho Rios, where a cotton tree fell on a house, killing a father and his daughter. <br /> <br /> Shawn &ldquo;Randy&rdquo; Shaw and his 13-year-old daughter, Sherina &ldquo;Sandy&rdquo; Shaw died, while his 11-year-old son Shawn Shaw Jr, also called &ldquo;Randy&rdquo;, was taken to hospital for treatment where he was admitted in stable condition. His injuries were not considered life threatening. <br /> <br /> Police reported that about 2:00 yesterday morning Shaw and his children were asleep at home when the tree fell on the house. The board structure, where the single parent and his children lived for about six years, was destroyed by the huge cotton tree.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The rain was falling very, very hard and I hear a heavy sound. I thought it was a light post drop down,&rdquo; Vera Stewart, a neighbour, said. <br /> <br /> Stewart said she rushed from her house when she heard another neighbour crying. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;When mi rush in a the house, only the little boy mi see,&rdquo; she said. She added that it was difficult to remove the child as she and another female neighbour needed the assistance of others. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;I not even know when they take him out,&rdquo; Stewart said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I never see the father. Only one of the daughter&rsquo;s hands alone I could see. Everything was covered,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Shaw, who worked as a newspaper vendor for years before becoming a juice vendor, was remembered as a very caring father to his children<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Him try with the two a them without a mother,&rdquo; one man said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It sad, sad, sad. Mi feel it man,&rdquo; the man continued.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Him get a hot death,&rdquo; another man said. <br /> <br /> Several people gathered at the scene expressed shock on how the two met their untimely death.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Mi never know him would dead like this,&rdquo; one man said, as he shook his head.<br /> <br /> One woman, while expressing sadness, shared superstitious beliefs about the cotton tree.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Whenever cotton tree fall it always bring death with it,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> In the meantime, Michelle, a neighbour, was counting her blessings yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is a tragedy, but I am blessed that it is not my house,&rdquo; she said. <br /> <br /> The tree that fell was closer to Michelle&rsquo;s home than it was to Shaw&rsquo;s; however, only the bathroom of Michelle&rsquo;s home was damaged.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I can build another one,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Michelle said she was blessed because the lives of her two young children, ages six and seven, were spared. She was especially happy that her daughter&rsquo;s life was spared so she could celebrate her eighth birthday today.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Her life is her birthday present,&rdquo; Michelle said.<br /> <br /> Michelle said she was inside her home when she heard a loud explosion that caused the ground to shake.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I knew it was the cotton tree,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Residents believe the tree fell because the root was burnt out; however, they could not say who burnt the root. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576195/252937_79677_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM Y http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576194/252937_sld.jpg 02 4 Man, 24, texts his way to a new car http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Man--24--texts-his-way-to-a-new-car_86664 DEMAR Chambers, a 24-year-old resident of St Catherine, has texted his way to a brand new 2017 Toyota Yaris in Digicel&rsquo;s &lsquo;High Rollers&rsquo; text-to-win game. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;I really wanted to win,&rdquo; Chambers said &ldquo;The game is a lot of fun and I really enjoyed playing it. I texted as much as I could and here I am now. I&rsquo;m really excited about winning the car because when you think about it, cars are very expensive. So if I can play a game and win a car from Digicel, I think that anyone can do it too.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Walking away with $1 million in cash was second place winner, Tifany Martin, 24, from Hayes, Clarendon, who plans to put the sum towards a downpayment on a house. &ldquo;My goals for this year include getting a car and buying my own home,&rdquo; said Martin. &ldquo;I wanted to win the car but this $1 million will go a far way towards me purchasing a house so I&rsquo;m truly happy about starting the New Year like this.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> In third place was Sherece James from Portmore, St Catherine, who won $500,000 cash. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576188/252792_79584_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Health ministry undertaking measures to curtail malaria http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Health-ministry-undertaking-measures-to-curtail-malaria_86653 THE Ministry of Health is undertaking measures to curtail the onset of malaria following reports of two cases surfacing in Jamaica which were identified by local health authorities at the start of the year.<br /> <br /> The National Public Health Laboratory confirmed one case on January 5, while the second, which was reported by a private laboratory on January 6, is awaiting the results of retesting on blood samples from people coming in contact with that individual.<br /> <br /> Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston De La Haye told JIS News that the ministry was notified about both people, one from St Catherine and the other from Montego Bay, who have been admitted to hospital.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have since increased the number of samples tested, in terms of contact. We sent 71 samples off for testing of individuals this person may have been in contact with...(and) all 71 are negative for malaria,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Dr De La Haye also advised that detailed investigations and vector control activities and searches for Anopheles mosquito breeding sites carried out, unearthed three locations near one of the patient&Atilde; s home.<br /> <br /> Consequently, he said, fogging will be conducted in the vicinity of both people&rsquo;s homes over the next several weeks.<br /> <br /> Additionally, on January 6 and 7, Dr De La Haye said the ministry conducted community fever surveillance for early detection of the disease.<br /> <br /> This saw officials visiting 179 households of which members of 156 were interviewed and 31 blood samples taken for testing.<br /> <br /> The ministry has urged Jamaicans to exercise caution when travelling to regions overseas where malaria is prevalent.<br /> <br /> They have been advised to take anti-malarial drugs before departing, during their visit and one month after returning. Additionally, they should consult a physician or visit a health centre before travelling and if symptoms occur after returning.<br /> <br /> Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito.<br /> <br /> Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, profuse sweating, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.<br /> <br /> Prescription for anti-malarial medication is available at the Comprehensive Health Centre at 55 Slipe Pen Road in Kingston. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12757503/191243__w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 4 James Hill farmers&rsquo; group http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/James-Hill-farmers--group_82057 WHEN you think of a farmers&rsquo; group, the picture that likely comes to mind is that of a group of elderly men. However, the James Hill Promotion and Marketing Organisation (PMO) is quickly redefining this stereotype.<br /> <br /> A group that has a US Peace Corps volunteer and several retired teachers among its members, the PMO is on a mission to not only improve farming efforts but to also build a better community for residents of James Hill in Clarendon.<br /> <br /> PMO President Gloria Moore explained that the group, which has more than 50 members, was formed nine years ago.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We formed a PMO because there is a struggle in the country area... (Although) you produce, you lose what you produce because we have no marketing effort,&rdquo; Moore told the<br /> <br /> Jamaica Observer in a recent interview at the James Hill New Testament Church in the parish. &ldquo;So we joined with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and started the organisation.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The retired teacher explained that she joined the group shortly after it was formed, on the advice of a resident who saw her efforts to get into farming, having just moved to the area.<br /> <br /> She explained that the group has been exposed to numerous training initiatives and is working towards getting funding for more permanent facilities, so they can take advantage of the agro-processing industry.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) heard about us and they were doing climate change work, so they targeted us as one of the groups to run their workshop. It lasted a year. They trained us (on) how to combat climate change, taught us new strategies for saving our lands, saving water and planting properly,&rdquo; Moore said.<br /> <br /> She said ACDI/VOCA also gave the organisation numerous seedlings for crops such as sorrel, pineapple, carrots, and peppers, which were planted on one of its members one-acre lot.<br /> <br /> Moore highlighted that they are now focusing on the production of pepper as they have found a prospective market &mdash; the Pickapeppa factory, which is located near Mandeville.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They (Pickapeppa factory) said they would take this Caribbean Red (pepper) from us so we planted a batch of about 960. What we are doing now is not really selling from that, but we are getting new plants because what we have cannot produce 200-and-odd pounds of pepper.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So we are getting new seedlings. When they come around, we put back in till we can supply our quota,&rdquo; Moore said about the organisation&rsquo;s newest project.<br /> <br /> The president also explained that PMO had spearheaded the move to form an association with the other farmers&rsquo; group, called the Northern Clarendon Farmers&rsquo; Association, in an effort to maximise the marketing and production potential of the farmers in that section of the parish.<br /> <br /> She said the association is currently trying to fund a &ldquo;cold storage&rdquo;, for all the fruits and vegetables produced by the association. She pointed out that, currently, up to 90 per cent of the different crops go to waste in the various communities because of the lack of such a storage facility.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;A cold storage really is a building, we were even thinking of a container. We would fix that container, insulate it and partition it off, so you have one part you could put simple things like vegetables and fruits in and another part where you could store yams and so on,&rdquo; Moore explained.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Then we want to try and set up a juice factory,&rdquo; she said, adding that it would not only be for juice but for other products that can be obtained from fruits.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If we get the basic juice factory then we can launch further and we can do marmalade, jams and jellies... because it is a real farming community, so we could survive not just off planting but off our by-products as well,&rdquo; Moore told the<br /> <br /> Observer.<br /> <br /> According to the PMO president, the lack of resources is hindering the organisation&rsquo;s agro-processing efforts. She said that recently, RADA conducted a skills training workshop where group members learnt the jam-making and bottling process, but could go no further as the resources are not available.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have two bottles each that we saved, just for exhibition purposes, but we have had so much rain now and it just (hampered) the guava (crop).<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They just fell, so we are back to square one,&rdquo; she bemoaned. &ldquo;So, we have to wait till next guava season. So if we had the cold storage, we would have picked all those guavas and stored them and we could get them to process as we go along,&rdquo; she stated.<br /> <br /> But despite the challenges, the farmers of James Hill are determined to push ahead and are now in the process of planning their second community fair to raise funds for the association.<br /> <br /> Moore said the first staging of the fair, which was held on December 30, 2016, was a moderate success, as they broke even. Plans are now afoot to make the fair bigger and better.<br /> <br /> At the same time, Moore explained that through the help of the Social Development Commission and the Clarendon Parish Council, the farmers have received money towards refurbishing the community centre grounds. Although the community centre is currently occupied by an early childhood institution, Moore said that they have been working with the principal and have renovated the cricket pitch and football field, among other initiatives.<br /> <br /> The president has attributed much of the group&rsquo;s accomplishments so far to US Peace Corps environmental volunteer, Whitney Gross, who has been working with them and, by extension, the James Hill community for the past two years.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Believe you me, she is the centre of this group. It&rsquo;s always &lsquo;Whitney, what you think about so and so&rsquo;; she has the technical knowledge.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are not really savvy so she is now teaching us to become savvy. She&rsquo;s always working and she&rsquo;s a tower of strength &mdash; we wish we could keep her longer,&rdquo; Moore said, much to the approval of members of the group who applauded.<br /> <br /> The 25-year-old Texas native, who has requested that her time in Jamaica be extended, said she hopes it will be granted as she loves working with the members of the farmers&rsquo; group. She also said although it is tough at times, the farmers manage to pull through and keep the organisation afloat. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;ACDI/VOCA and RADA, they say no other group they know of has done as much as we have done. The groups aren&rsquo;t usually able to hold it together as we do so, because of that, we have actually gone global,&rdquo; Moore shared with a smile. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;They are really fascinated with us because we don&rsquo;t just sit back and roll over and die, we are determined that we are going to get something going and we are all trying our best to make life a little better for ourselves,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13576125/245173_79645_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Government promises completion of national consular policy this year http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Government-promises-completion-of-national-consular-policy-this-year_86644 FOREIGN Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says the Government is targeting the completion of a new National Consular Policy this year.<br /> <br /> The policy, for which preparation was approved by Cabinet in 2016, aims to support the improvement and standardisation of service delivery to members of Jamaican Diaspora through overseas missions and honorary consuls. <br /> <br /> Speaking during a recent JIS Issues & Answers&rsquo; interview, Senator Johnson Smith said the policy will also enlighten Jamaicans in the diaspora on what to expect from the proposed improved services.<br /> <br /> She advised that persons will be able to apprise themselves of the document&rsquo;s provisions by viewing it on the ministry&rsquo;s website and<br /> <br /> Facebook page as well as at the various missions. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Everybody must understand what kind of service (they) should expect (and) what services we can provide...(in) meeting the needs of our people overseas,&rdquo; the minister said.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13148618/216406__w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Chuck urges criminals to plead guilty http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Chuck-urges-criminals-to-plead-guilty KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, is urging people who have committed crimes to offer guilty pleas where the evidence against them is of such that they are unlikely to mount a successful defence.<br /> <br /> He said that by pleading guilty, their sentences could be reduced and there is speedier disposal of the case, which helps to reduce the backlog in the courts.<br /> <br /> Chuck said he had to give such advice to his clients while practising as a defence lawyer. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;Once the cases against the accused are strong, I am going to call on accused persons, through their attorneys-at-law, to take responsibility,&rdquo; he noted.<br /> <br /> Chuck was addressing a commissioning ceremony for 84 Justices of the Peace (JPs) for the parish of St Andrew held on Sunday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston.<br /> <br /> He said he will be encouraging the legal community to assist persons in obtaining reduced penalties by admitting to their guilt, while also raising public awareness about the benefits of entering guilty pleas.<br /> <br /> Changes are to be made to the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreement) Act, which allows persons accused of crimes to plead guilty and give testimony or information in return for a reduced penalty.<br /> <br /> The amendments will, among other things, allow for the defence counsel to be part of the plea-bargaining process and to negotiate with the prosecutor and judge regarding the sentence to be imposed.<br /> <br /> The objectives are to make the legislation more effective and to speed up the pace at which justice is delivered.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;Show contrition now, and when the plea bargaining bill, which I am trying to fast-track, comes out, utilise it and get the benefit, if any, of pleading guilty,&rdquo; Chuck urged.<br /> <br /> The minister, in the meantime, called on the new JPs to encourage other persons of integrity to come forward to serve their communities in a similar capacity.<br /> <br /> Custos of St Andrew, Dr Patricia Dunwell, encouraged the new JPs to work with citizens, in the areas that they serve, to tackle the various challenges faced. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13572075/252599_79366_repro_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 6:30 PM 5 Missing trio found dead in Negril http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Missing-trio-found-dead-in-Negril WESTMORELAND, Jamaica &mdash; The bodies of three men who were reported missing since Saturday was found this afternoon in West End, Negril.<br /> <br /> They are: 25-year-old Richard Davis, otherwise called &lsquo;Neeko&rsquo;, 24-year-old Romaine Williams, otherwise called &lsquo;Goat Head&rsquo;, and 22-year-old David Bennett, otherwise called &lsquo;Chullups&rsquo;, all of Seaton Crescent in Savanna-la-Mar.<br /> <br /> They were last seen alive in Negril about 2:45 pm on Saturday.<br /> <br /> Read: Three Westmoreland men go missing in Negril<br /> <br /> The police&rsquo;s Corporate Communications Unit (CCU) said the bodies were discovered shortly after 3:00 pm. They said lawmen were still processing the scene. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578720/crime-scene-tape-3_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 6:15 PM 5 Bail denied for Florida airport shooter http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bail-denied-for-Florida-airport-shooter Esteban Santiago, who also wounded six people in his January 6 shooting spree at the Fort Lauderdale airport, told investigators that he had been visiting "the dark web" to communicate with jihadists and members or sympathizers of the Islamic State group, the local Sun Sentinel newspaper reported.<br /> <br /> Santiago appeared handcuffed and wearing the red jumpsuit of a maximum security prisoner to answer questions Tuesday in the court of US judge Lurana Snow.<br /> <br /> The day of the incident the accused gunman had arrived in Fort Lauderdale -- a city some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Miami -- on a one-way ticket from Alaska.<br /> <br /> Soon after landing around noon that day Santiago retrieved a 9mm handgun and ammunition that he had declared and packed in his checked luggage, then opened fire in Terminal 2 of the busy airport until he ran out of ammunition.<br /> <br /> Then he dropped to the ground and peacefully surrendered to a sheriff's deputy.<br /> <br /> Prosecutor Ricardo Del Toro told the judge that at various points Santiago "said he carried out the attack because of government mind control," the Sun-Sentinel reported.<br /> <br /> However "he later said he did so because of ISIL ... after participating in jihadi chat rooms."<br /> <br /> On November 7, the same month in which Santiago left his job with an Alaska security firm, Santiago walked into the FBI's Anchorage office complaining that his mind was being controlled by national intelligence agencies, which were forcing him to watch IS group videos, authorities said.<br /> <br /> This "erratic behavior" led agents to contact local police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, FBI agent George Piro told reporters last week.<br /> <br /> Santiago will be formally charged with crimes - the most serious of which carries the death penalty - on January 30.<br /> <br /> Santiago was born in New Jersey and grew up in Puerto Rico. A former member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard, he served in Iraq from April 2010 to February 2011 and ended his service in August. <br /> <br /> Currently Santiago is being held in solitary confinement under suicide watch at the main Broward County jail. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578653/suspect-airport_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 6:00 PM 5 Forex: J$128.62 to one US dollar http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Forex--J-128-62-to-one-US-dollar2017-01-17T14-42-36 Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar ended trading at J$98.80, up from J$97.07, while the British pound sterling ended trading at J$156.23, up from J$154.41. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13152567/forex_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 5:35 PM 5 Wanted man sets house with family on fire in attempt to escape arrest http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Wanted-man-sets-house-with-family-on-fire KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; A family of six was this morning rescued from a burning house which was set ablaze by a wanted man, who was one of the occupants. <br /> <br /> He was said to be attempting to avoid his arrest.<br /> <br /> Reports from the Kingston East police are that about 2:30 am, detectives from the division were processing a scene where a man was earlier shot. <br /> <br /> While probing the area that was cordoned, a Toyota Isis was checked and it was revealed that the owner was wanted by the Half Way Tree Police for three counts of robbery.<br /> <br /> Further investigation by the lawmen resulted in the man being located at his home at Everest Drive, Bay Shore Park in Kingston. <br /> <br /> The police said they spoke to him and he reportedly refused to cooperate and instead threatened to set the house on fire and kill himself and his family, to include his common-law wife and four children, aged nine months to 16 years old.  <br /> <br /> The police obtained a warrant and were preparing to enter the building when he reportedly set ablaze.<br /> <br /> The lawmen forcibly gained entry to the house, rescuing all six from the inferno. The house and its contents were destroyed by the blaze. <br /> <br /> One unit from the Half Way Tree Fire Department carried out cooling down operations. <br /> <br /> No one was injured by the fire and the estimate of loss has not yet being ascertained. <br /> <br /> The wanted man is now in police custody, and will be facing additional charges emanating from this incident.<br /> <br /> Investigations continue. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578499/Fire1_w504_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 5:10 PM 5 Accommodation identified for wards at Clifton Boys&rsquo; Home http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Accommodation-identified-for-wards-at-Clifton-Boys--Home ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, has announced that a more suitable temporary location for wards of the State from the Clifton Boys&rsquo; Home in Darliston, Westmoreland, has been identified.<br /> <br /> He said once the necessary contractual arrangements can be ironed out, the wards will be relocated there.<br /> <br /> The home was destroyed by fire on Sunday, and the 28 boys, aged 6 to 18, have been temporarily housed at the St John&rsquo;s Anglican Church, which owns and operates the facility.<br /> <br /> The state minister said all effort will be made to keep the boys together under the care and guidance of their house mother, Irene McDonald, with whom they share a special relationship.<br /> <br /> Speaking to JIS News on Monday during a visit to the St John&rsquo;s Anglican Church, Green expressed appreciation for the quick and decisive response from representatives of the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the church, following the fire.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;I am very happy that the CDA came in very early. We have provided counselling services. The boys seem to be very upbeat, and they are looking out for each other. I am very happy with what I have seen, thus far, and we just have to keep at it,&rdquo; the state minister said.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;Clearly these are temporary arrangements. We just had to do something so that they would have somewhere to lay their heads. We are already far advanced in trying to secure another location that is more suitable,&rdquo; Green added.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, he said the outpouring of support for the home and the boys from both local and overseas partners, has been tremendous.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I must thank Jamaicans, both here and abroad, who want to help. We will have to engage the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the church to see how quickly we can get the building back up. It&rsquo;s a privately owned home run by the church, and I think this will take all hands on deck to get it back up and running,&rdquo; Green said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578444/Floyd-et-al_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 5:00 PM 5 Obama commutes sentence of WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Obama-commutes-sentence-of-WikiLeaks-source-Chelsea-Manning WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) &mdash; US President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years behind bars for giving classified US documents to WikiLeaks.<br /> <br /> In one of his final acts as president, Obama pardoned 64 people and commuted the sentences of 209 others, including the imprisoned transgender soldier who was convicted in August 2013 of espionage and other offenses.<br /> <br /> Among those pardoned was James Cartwright, a former four-star general who lied to the FBI about his discussions with journalists about Iran's nuclear program.<br /> <br /> But Manning -- who had been serving time in solitary confinement and is now eligible for release in May -- is by far the most high-profile name on Obama's list.<br /> <br /> Manning admitted handing 700,000 sensitive military and diplomatic after admitting to handing classified documents over to WikiLeaks.<br /> <br /> Activists had argued her sentence is excessive and point to the psychological frailty of the transgender soldier who has already made two suicide attempts.<br /> <br /> "This move could quite literally save Chelsea's life," said Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union.<br /> <br /> Obama's move is something of a surprise, coming in the midst of a scandal over the hacking and the release of Democratic party emails that roiled the 2016 election.<br /> <br /> In recent weeks the White House has refused to be drawn on a possible commutation or pardon, but has made a stark difference between Manning, who went through the courts and admitted wrong doing, and the likes of Edward Snowden. <br /> <br /> Snowden -- who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia after making a shattering revelation in 2013 of a global communications and internet surveillance system spanning the globe -- was not on Obama's list.<br /> <br /> Also not on the list was Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army sergeant held captive for five years by the Taliban before his release in a prisoner swap, who is due to be court-martialed for desertion.<br /> <br /> Other names not on the list are General David Petraeus -- who improperly shared classified information -- and Obama's ally Hillary Clinton. <br /> <br /> There had been wild speculation that Obama may chose to preemptively pardon her to forestall any Republican-led prosecution.<br /> <br /> Presidents can theoretically pardon people before they are even sentenced. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13570039/Barack-Obama-3_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 4:45 PM 5 Former Moravian head defends integrity http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Former-Moravian-head-defends-integrity KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Dr Paul Gardner, who recently resigned as head of the Moravian church in Jamaica following a sex scandal surrounding the organisation, says he stepped aside from his leadership positions to allow a full investigation into allegations circulating in the media. <br /> <br /> Gardner tendered his resignation as president of the Moravian Church, the Teachers Services Commission and the Cooperative Credit Union Board, with immediate effect last week.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I stepped aside from my day to day administrative responsibilities to give the church room to fully investigate these vile and unfounded allegations circulating in the media, and to prevent any of these institutions from having to deal with the distraction that this issue presents,&rdquo; he explained in a release today.  <br /> <br /> He also moved to defend his integrity and said he intends to &ldquo;concentrate on protecting and clearing my good name&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I have been committed to a life of service to my church and my country which I always did with unquestioned integrity for more than 30 years,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Dr Gardner and vice-president of the church, Rev Jermaine Gibson, quit the executive of the church last Thursday as allegations of sexual misconduct continued to rock the Moravian church.<br /> <br /> The events unfolded after a minister of the church, Rev Rupert Clarke, was arrested on rape and carnal abuse charges in connection with a 15-year-old St Elizabeth girl. <br /> <br /> He was later charged and is now out on $800,000 bail. The police reported that during a patrol on December 28 in Austin, St Elizabeth, they discovered Clarke with the minor in his parked motor vehicle.<br /> <br /> A former minister of the church, Dr Canute Thompson, has since made claims that the head of the church knew about a pattern of behaviour of sexual misconduct in relation to Clarke, and that Gardner himself had promised to address the concerns. <br /> <br /> Gardner has denied those allegations, but the circumstances surrounding the Clarke case have worsened, with the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse indicating that Clarke could be slapped with more charges in relation to a sister of the 15-year-old minor http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578374/Paul-Gardner_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 4:30 PM 5 Brathwaite committed to Windies duty despite T20 lure http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Brathwaite-committed-to-Windies-duty-despite-T20-lure SYDNEY, Australia (CMC) &mdash; West Indies star Carlos Brathwaite has reiterated his commitment to playing international cricket, despite the demand for his services in Twenty20 leagues across the globe.<br /> <br /> The 28-year-old has been an instant hit with Sydney Thunder in the ongoing Australia Big Bash and already the franchise is weighing up the possibility of securing his services for next season.<br /> <br /> However, West Indies are scheduled to tour New Zealand from November 2017 to January 2018 for three Tests, five One-Day Internationals and one T20I &mdash; a series that will clash with the early stages of the Big Bash, which bowls off a week prior to Christmas.<br /> <br /> And Brathwaite, who is trying to forge an international career in all three formats, said he was focussed on making the Windies squad for the full series.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;My priority is always the West Indies. I want to be part of all three formats, and I want to be on that New Zealand tour next,&rsquo;&rsquo; the all-rounder said here this week.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If I&rsquo;m not in New Zealand, and an opportunity presents itself here &mdash; I&rsquo;m not in New Zealand for whatever reason, and I&rsquo;m available &mdash; I&rsquo;d love to come back to Sydney and the BBL.&rsquo;&rsquo;<br /> <br /> Brathwaite&rsquo;s commitment to West Indies was already evident in his decision to return to the Caribbean following Thunder&rsquo;s final preliminary game on Wednesday, to represent his native Barbados Pride in the Regional Super50.<br /> <br /> The tournament, the Caribbean&rsquo;s premier 50-overs competition, is a requirement for West Indies players in order to be eligible for selection in the ODI format. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13404109/Brathwaite-copy_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 4:15 PM 5 House to debate $12.8B budget increase this afternoon http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/House-to-debate--12-8b-budget-increase-this-afternoon KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The House of Representatives will this afternoon debate the first supplementary estimates for 2016/17.<br /> <br /> The estimates were tabled in the House last week Tuesday, by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw.<br /> <br /> They include an increase in the annual budget from $579.93 billion to $592.74 billion, an increase of $12.8 billion.<br /> <br /> The Estimates also show an increase in the Recurrent (housekeeping) expenses from $459.37 billion to $463.52 billion, while Capital (development) spending moved from $120.56 billion to $129.2 billion.<br /> <br /> Opposition spokesman on Finance and Planning, Dr Peter Philips, will present the Opposition&rsquo;s response to the estimates.<br /> <br /> Balford Henry<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578282/Audley-Shaw1_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 3:26 PM 5 Overnight fire did not affect production &mdash; Cement Company http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Overnight-fire-did-not-affect-production----Cement-Company KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Caribbean Cement Company Limited says that a fire which occurred in the administrative office of the company yesterday, did not affect production. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;The incident did not affect production and will not affect our ability to supply cement to the trade and our valued customers. Our customers&rsquo; trucks continue to be loaded and the incident has not disrupted supply,&rdquo; a statement from the Rockfort, Kingston, company said.<br /> <br />  The fire began in a section of its administration office after 6:00 pm last evening and lasted into this morning. <br /> <br /> According to the statement, the Fire Department extinguished the initial fire; however it reignited in the same area after midnight. <br /> <br /> No one was injured in the incident, only material damage was noted, the company reported.  <br /> <br /> They said that investigations have commenced into the cause of the fire, adding that personnel who normally operate in the affected area have been reassigned to others areas across the plant. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;We would like to thank the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the security forces for their quick response and professional service. All operations remain normal,&rdquo; the company statement said<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578254/cement_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 3:13 PM 5 Over 400 cases of lynching in Haiti http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Over-400-cases-of-lynching-in-Haiti PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) &mdash; A new report on lynching in Haiti has claimed that there has been only one conviction even though more than 400 cases had been reported to law enforcement officials in the French-speaking Caribbean country during the period 2012-2015.<br /> <br /> The report prepared by the Human Rights Section of MINUSTAH / United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (HRS), presents and analyses the key elements relating to &lsquo;popular justice&rsquo; in Haiti, also known as &lsquo;vigilantism&rsquo; or &lsquo;lynching&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> HRS said that this is the first report on this subject and that the phenomenon of lynching is of continuing concern to it.<br /> <br /> HRS said that based on statistics and cases it has followed in recent years, &ldquo;it has been observed that lynching acts have rarely been subject to judicial investigation and even more rarely convicted.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Indeed, 483 incidents of lynching or lynching attempts reported by MINUSTAH between 2012 and 2015 resulted in 59 arrests only. HRS is aware of only one conviction in a case of lynching.,&rdquo; the report stated, noting that &lsquo;this passivity, even this tolerance, by State agents in front of serious crimes violates the right to life as guaranteed by international treaties to which Haiti is a party and as protected by national legislation&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The report titled &ldquo;Taking justice into one&rsquo;s own hands or the reign of impunity in Haiti&rdquo;, notes that the main reason given by the population to explain the use of lynching would be a lack of confidence in police and justice, and the fear that perpetrators of crimes enjoy impunity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This feeling is linked to the frequent failures of police and judicial authorities to investigate prosecute and punish crimes. Some people then replace these authorities in order to exercise what they consider to be a form of justice. Authorities&rsquo; lack of resources to prevent and punish lynching reinforces the phenomenon and suggests that lynching is implicitly an accepted practice.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> However, the analysis of available data shows that the vast majority of cases of lynching occur in urban areas with the highest number of police officers per population.<br /> <br /> The analysis of the prison population shows that a large proportion of prisoners is accused of theft, a crime that is the first reason given for committing lynching.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In a country where crime is generally low, the fact that lynching represents 15 per cent of homicides should worry the authorities. Even if the State can&rsquo;t be held responsible for each and every crime perpetrated on its territory, it nevertheless has the obligation to take appropriate measures and exercise required diligence to prevent crimes, investigate and punish perpetrators and compensate victims. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13578215/lynch_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, January 17, 2017 2:55 PM 5