News

False alarm - Jamaican mute mistaken for Haitian refugee

BY ALESIA EDWARDS Observer staff reporter ?alesiae@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 29, 2010    

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RIO NUEVO, St Mary — A man who residents of Stewart Town in this parish thought was a Haitian fleeing earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince turned out to be a Jamaican mute from Windsor Castle, Portland.

Police determined the man’s identity — Earl Anderson — last night after his mother, Mavis Anderson, saw him on TVJ’s Prime Time News report of what residents said was the arrival of five Haitians in a boat.

“Him a nuh Haitian, him a Jamaican,” Mavis Anderson told the Observer last night. “Mi nuh know weh him a do a Stewart Town. Him usually ride him bicycle to Port Maria, but mi nuh know weh him a do down there.”

Word that Haitian refugees had arrived started spreading yesterday afternoon after residents claimed they saw a small yellow and white paddle boat off the coast in Stewart Town about 12 o’clock with five men and alerted the police.


The rumour mushroomed when residents saw Anderson riding his bicycle from the beach area in Stewart Town and assumed that he was one of the ‘men on the boat’ because he was wet.

Pearl Cameron, a resident who offered Anderson a bath, food, clothing and money said although he was hungry and weak he appeared to be in good health.

“He wrote on a piece of paper and told us that it was five of them on the boat and that his family survived the earthquake,” she told the Observer, adding that she had used sign language to communicate with Anderson.

The residents, believing Anderson’s story, called the police who took him to the Port Maria Hospital where, with the help of a translator, they tried to question him.

When the Observer went to the area, police were unable to confirm a report that two men who were seen on a cliff behind the Rio Nuevo fishing beach were in fact Haitians and were among the men residents said they saw on the boat.

A search of the coastline for the men in the boat yielded no results and police and health officials waited for hours at the Rio Nuevo beach to see if the men would turn up there.

“Our role is to get the people, if they are here, and assist them to the hospital,” said Albert Brown, acting chief public health inspector for the parish. “My team is here to have their boat disinfected so that… diseases that they might be taking with them are controlled.”

As the rumour continued to spread, residents of Rio Nuevo and Stewart Town expressed fear that the men said to have been seen on the boat could be armed and dangerous.

“We don’t know who these Haitians are; they could be some of the prisoners who escaped,” one resident argued. His reference was to news that 3,000 convicts escaped when the January 12 earthquake destroyed the prison in Portau-Prince.

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