PRIME Minister P J Patterson yesterday announced a $13.4-million education programme for the children of three marine divers slain in the last two years, even as he acknowledged that it would in no way serve to alleviate the pain of their loss.
"I know that nothing we can give or say or offer will ever compensate for those who have lost their fathers but we are trying through these gestures to indicate in a very practical way that we care, (that) we are concerned," Patterson told the children and their mothers at Jamaica House.
"Some of you are too small to even appreciate the significance of this occasion (but) later on in life you will. To those who are older and can understand, I want to convey my profound sympathy, personally and on behalf of all decent and law-abiding citizens in this country."
The murdered divers are:
* Carl Lubsey, 37, who was gunned down on the Rocky Point main road in Clarendon on October 31, 2000;
* Aubrey Farr, who was shot on October 14, 2001; and
* Donovan Henry, 41, whose decomposing body was found with multiple stab wounds on the Springfield main road in St James on October 14, 2001.
The trio, who were employed in the maritime sector to inspect the bottom of ships leaving the island to ensure no illegal drugs were attached to them, were reportedly murdered because of their continued refusal to accept bribes to overlook whatever contraband they came across.
"They were the victims of a criminal element who murdered them because they dared to do their duty and refused to be compromised," Patterson said. "They did their duty and they paid the ultimate price with their lives."
Patterson said that he had always been aware that the divers left behind families and it was his belief that the society should make sure that their children were not deprived of access of educational opportunity.
"I have been taking a keen personal interest in this matter and, in fact, I have been pursing it from my vantage point as prime minister," he said.
The result, said Patterson, was the $13.4-million education programme that is being funded by the Ports Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ). The programme, he said, is slated to last the next 14 years, at which time the youngest of the eight beneficiaries, four year-old Nicolas Farr, would have reached 18.
Under the terms of the programme, that will be administered by a management team comprised of PAJ and SAJ officials, Patterson said:
* the children under 10 years of age, who are either in preparatory or primary schools, will receive $180,000 annually;
* the children over 10 years of age, who are either in secondary or high schools, will receive $216,000 annually;
* members of the management committee will maintain direct contact and ongoing consultations with the families and schools;
* disbursements will be made directly to the schools; and
* school reports will be requested and evaluated to ensure regular attendance, acceptable conduct and positive academic performance, which will "contribute to a successful outcome of this investment programme".
He added that $9 million would be invested to ensure that the annual disbursements were met.
Lubsey's widow, Yvonne, gave a moving speech of appreciation to Patterson, the SAJ and the PAJ.
"We would just like to express our thanks on behalf of the other families. To the prime minister, the PAJ and the SAJ, we know that nothing anybody can say or do can compensate for the terrible loss that we have suffered. But we would just like you to know that we really appreciate this gesture and I am sure that it will go a far way in helping to alleviate some of the financial burdens that we are experiencing," she said.
"I would just like to encourage the children to demonstrate their appreciation by excelling at school and encourage us as mothers who now have the tremendous task of being mother and father to these children to support them, create the right atmosphere in which they can excel."