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 Role of AGD expanded http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Role-of-AGD-expanded KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The role of the Accountant General&rsquo;s Department (AGD) has been expanded as the Government moves to centralise its revenue.<br /> <br /> Accountant General, Carlene Murdock, said beginning this month, the AGD will receive revenue from the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) and Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), which are the principal receivers of revenue.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is another phase of the centralisation or the consolidation of cash resources in the Government of Jamaica&rsquo;s account. What this means is that the Government will have a better handle as to what, where and the amount of resources it has at its disposal,&rdquo; she explained while speaking at a JIS Think Tank on Friday.<br /> <br /> In addition, as of October 2016, the AGD has been executing a new function, Banking and Authorisation, which was transferred from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service. This means the AGD now approves all requests for banking facilities from ministries, departments and agencies.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, approval was granted for a new division of the AGD, which the Accountant General said will see it develop into a modernised treasury.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have in that structure a division called the Government Accounting and Reporting Division (GARD). That division will be making and doing reports on all government business in the county,&rdquo; informed Murdock. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13742024/AGD_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 9:50 PM #Champs2017: KC, Calabar stars impress in Class One 200m heats http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--KC--Calabar-stars-impress-in-Class-One-200m-heats KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Jhevaughn Matherson of Kingston College and Calabar&rsquo;s Christopher Taylor both threw down the gauntlet in their respective heats of the boys&rsquo; Class One 200m, which whet the appetites of patrons on day one of the 107th ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships under way at the National Stadium.<br /> <br /> Taylor, running from lane four in heat one, got the ball rolling when he clocked a comfortable 21.07 seconds in a positive 2.1 metres per second wind speed.<br /> <br /> Matherson then strut his stuff in heat three, cruising to a 21.12-second clocking in a wind speed of positive 1.5 metres per second, which gave an indication of what is to come in the semi-final and final of the event.<br /> <br /> Excelsior&rsquo;s Andel Miller (21.21s), KC&rsquo;s Tyreke Bryan (21.37s), another Calabar stalwart Tyreke Wilson (21.33s) and Richard Dixon (21.34s) of Dinthill Technical also entered the reckoning as the notable qualifiers.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13742008/matherson_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 9:24 PM OAS discusses Venezuela crisis, Caracas protests http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/OAS-discusses-Venezuela-crisis--Caracas-protests WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) &mdash; The Organization of American States held a special meeting on the crisis in Venezuela on Tuesday, triggering a furious reaction from the Venezuelan government and its staunchest regional allies.<br /> <br /> The meeting is the international community's latest effort to get to grips with an economic and political unravelling in the once-booming oil producer, whose skid to the brink of collapse has the rest of Latin America increasingly worried.<br /> <br /> It comes after 14 countries in the OAS, including the United States, urged Venezuela's leftist government last week to release political prisoners and "re-establish democracy" by holding elections.<br /> <br /> In a sign that Venezuela is increasingly cornered, a total of 20 countries voted to open Tuesday's special session of the OAS Permanent Council in Washington.<br /> <br /> Eleven countries voted against, two abstained and one was absent.<br /> <br /> "As members of this organization, we cannot remain indifferent," said Costa Rica's representative, Rogelio Sotela.<br /> <br /> Venezuela protested that the organisation was interfering in the country's internal affairs, in "flagrant violation of its principles."<br /> <br /> Joining in, the leftist governments of Nicaragua and Bolivia stalled the proceedings with nearly an hour of legal objections in support of their ideological ally, whose largesse with its oil wealth long bought it outsize influence in the region.<br /> <br /> Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, but has plunged deep into recession since 2014 as low crude prices have laid bare its overwhelming dependence on its chief export.<br /> <br /> The country has been hit by devastating shortages of food and medicine, sparking riots, looting and an epidemic of violent crime.<br /> <br /> Maduro, who is fighting the opposition's efforts to force him from power, blames the crisis on an "economic war" by US-backed business interests.<br /> <br /> His opponents blame the failure of 18 years of socialist "revolution" under the president and his late mentor, Hugo Chavez.<br /> <br /> A presidential election is scheduled for December 2018, while gubernatorial polls originally set for last December have been delayed until this year, although no date has been fixed.<br /> <br /> Maduro's popularity has nose-dived, but he retains a strong grip on the levers of power.<br /> <br /> Electoral authorities have shot down efforts to call a referendum on removing him from office, and the Supreme Court has effectively stripped the opposition-majority legislature of its powers.<br /> <br /> In its latest attack, the high court stripped lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution Tuesday.<br /> <br /> OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is pushing for the group to suspend Venezuela if Maduro does not allow elections, calling the country a "dictatorship."<br /> <br /> But the OAS Permanent Council did not appear to be ready for such a severe rebuke -- yet.<br /> <br /> The 14 signatories to last week's joint declaration said suspending Venezuela from the OAS should only be used as a "last resort."<br /> <br /> The US representative, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Fitzpatrick, said the goal of the special session "is not immediate suspension."<br /> <br /> "It will consider all the tools available to the OAS to help the people of Venezuela," he said.<br /> <br /> "We encourage Venezuela to participate in a productive discussion on ways to solve the economic and humanitarian crisis."<br /> <br /> Proposals ranged from periodic evaluations of Venezuela before the Permanent Council to forming a "group of friends" to tackle the crisis.<br /> <br /> In Caracas, Maduro threatened to ditch the OAS, saying it was time for a debate on whether Venezuela should remain a member given its "aggression." http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741972/Maduro-3_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 8:53 PM Jamaica aiming for tier 1 ranking in human trafficking fight http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jamaica-aiming-for-tier-1-ranking-in-human-trafficking-fight KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, says Jamaica is aiming for Tier 1 ranking in the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) by the United States' Department of State.<br /> <br /> He said the efforts will continue, through public education, to raise awareness about the issue among the populace.  <br /> <br /> Chuck was addressing the launch of the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons&rsquo; (NATFATIP) islandwide tour at the Justice Ministry in St Andrew today.<br /> <br /> Countries with a Tier 1 ranking are those whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards.<br /> <br /> Currently, Jamaica has a Tier 2 ranking, which was upgraded from the Tier Two Watch List last year. <br /> <br /> Tier 2 consists of those countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA&rsquo;s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to comply.  <br /> <br /> Chuck noted that there are issues that need to be addressed before the country can achieve the desired Tier 1 ranking. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is still a certain amount of abuse of women, so there is a level of human trafficking in Jamaica. Females, in general, are being exploited...  and young boys, (being) sent out to beg by (adults)... can be considered modern day slavery or human trafficking,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Once we remove these elements and we can successfully prosecute persons, then we can successfully be at Tier 1,&rdquo; he noted.<br /> <br /> During the launch, members of the Justice Ministry marched to Half-Way Tree to hand out flyers, brochures and bumper stickers with the message to stop human trafficking. <br /> <br /> Deputy Superintendent of Police, Carl Berry, who heads the Jamaica Constabulary Force&rsquo;s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit emphasised that &ldquo;human trafficking must be forcefully stopped&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> The NATFATIP islandwide tour is a public awareness campaign aimed at raising knowledge about human trafficking and educating persons on prevention measures.<br /> <br /> It is being carried out under the theme &lsquo;Be Wise. Open Your Eyes. Spot Them. Stop Them. Report Them&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Based on information from the NATFATIP, more Jamaicans need to understand that human trafficking is a real and serious problem that strips persons of their dignity and self-worth, evidenced by domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and other forms of dehumanising activities. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741898/Chuck_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 8:06 PM USF to provide WiFi downtown, Olympic Gardens http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/USF-to-provide-WiFi-downtown--Olympic-Gardens KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The Universal Service Fund (USF) continues its quest to provide 100 per cent Internet penetration across Jamaica with Wi-Fi hotspots to be provided at the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston and in Olympic Gardens.<br /> <br /> Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the USF, Suzette Buchanan, said that in addition to fulfilling its mandate, she hopes these hotspots will also assist in facilitating entrepreneurship.<br /> <br /> She explained that the Olympic Gardens area should be a busy commercial area shortly and, as such, &ldquo;the hotspot being created there is to complement the entertainment activities along the thoroughfare, and to also assist in providing income for small entrepreneurs in the vicinity&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have St William Grant Park, which will also provide connectivity to <br /> <br /> the market,&rdquo; she said, adding that the hotspots should be functioning by the first week in April.<br /> <br /> Additionally, the CEO said that there are plans to provide hotspots in Spanish Town, St Catherine; Mandeville in Manchester; and Junction in St Elizabeth.  <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Based on our research, our findings indicate that even though Jamaicans have devices, a very small percentage of these individuals are connected,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We want to encourage Jamaicans to utilise their online services. If you are paying your taxes, you can pay it online, and you can also visit our Government websites to see what is available to you, to keep yourself updated and to be educated,&rdquo; Buchanan added.<br /> <br /> The USF started providing free Wi-Fi in public spaces in late 2016 and has already provided free Wi-Fi at Devon House in Kingston as well as the Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree square.  http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741873/WiFi-logo_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:38 PM JCC says Jamaica can tax less, grow more http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/JCC-says-Jamaica-can-tax-less--grow-more KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), is urging the business community to step up its efforts in support of comprehensive taxation reform, as Jamaica &ldquo;can tax less and grow more&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The JCC&rsquo;s appeal follows the recent approval of the 2017/18 budget, which included a $13.5 billion tax package. <br /> <br /> According to the JCC, national budgets should have the scope to deploy resources to meet extraordinary circumstances and the Jamaican business community must ensure that this happens.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The unfortunate truth is that we have had the experience, with successive administrations, where Cabinets emphasise their willingness to do so, but end up cherry-picking components that accord with their short-term budgetary imperatives. The limitations of such a stance are evident,&rdquo; the JCC stated.<br /> <br /> It further argued that the focus cannot simply be how to fill this year&rsquo;s budgetary hole, as taxation decisions should also address the medium and long term if they are to achieve their intention.<br /> <br /> The JCC lamented that the unwillingness to look beyond the short term over these many years, has taken Jamaica to a point where there are very few options. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;What we must insist on is rationality in tax measures and efficiency in ensuring compliance.  It is not beyond our capacity to put in place a fair, efficient and forward-looking tax regime. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741869/JCC-Logo_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:26 PM O-WRAP: Records fall at #Champs2017... Tesha to be deported from Bahamas... FIFA bans Messi http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/O-WRAP--Records-fall-at--Champs2017--Tesha-to-be-deported-from-Bahamas--FIFA-bans-Messi 1. Three records broken on day one of #Champs2017<br /> <br /> Records fell on day one of the 107th ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships at the National Stadium. Holmwood Technical&rsquo;s sprint hurdler Shanette Allison, Kimar Farquharson of Calabar and St Jago&rsquo;s Class Four sprinter Brianna Lyston are the early record breakers. Full story here: <br /> <br /> 2. Alleged Clansman leader Tesha Miller to be deported from Bahamas<br /> <br /> Alleged Clansman leader, Tesha Miller is to be deported from Bahamas today. Full story here<br /> <br /> 3. Cellphone jammers restored at Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre<br /> <br /> In keeping with the latest move to strengthen security in the nation&rsquo;s correctional facilities, a special Technology Task Force (TTF) established by the Ministry of National Security has restored and optimised two cell phone jammers at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston to block incoming and outgoing calls from the maximum security facility. Full story here: <br /> <br /> 4. More than 3000 student athletes set to compete at #Champs2017<br /> <br /> Approximately 3,100 athletes from high schools islandwide will be on show at the annual ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls&rsquo; Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston from Tuesday to Saturday. Full story here<br /> <br /> 5. FIFA bans Messi for 4 World Cup qualifying games<br /> <br /> Lionel Messi has been banned from Argentina's next four World Cup qualifiers, starting with Tuesday's game in Bolivia. Full story here<br /> <br /> 6. Anti-doping hearing for Spencer and Hylton this week<br /> <br /> The Independent Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will convene the preliminary hearing for Kaliese Spencer and Riker Hylton on Wednesday and Thursday respectively at the Jamaica Conference Centre 14-20 Port Royal Street, Kingston. Full story here<br /> <br /> 7. 'Phillips heralds a hopeful future', Patriots welcome new PNP president<br /> <br /> People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) affiliate, the Patriots have extended congratulations and offered &ldquo;unwavering&rdquo; support to the new party president Dr Peter Phillips, who became the fifth leader of the party on Sunday. Full story here<br /> <br /> 8. 'Blanket ban' on corned beef worries JCC<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) says that they are concerned about the &ldquo;blanket ban&rdquo; on corned beef that is still in effect despite revelation that Jamaica receives it supply from facilities that not under investigation. Full story here<br /> <br /> 9. Merit in relocating money from public bodies to Consolidated Fund &mdash; Dr King<br /> <br /> Co-Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), Dr Damien King, says there is merit in the Government&rsquo;s proposed relocation of public bodies&rsquo; financial resources to the Consolidated Fund. Full story here<br /> <br /> 10. Jamaican mother of teen killed by white cop robbed of moral victory &mdash; US Congresswoman<br /> <br /> A Caribbean American legislator says that the Jamaican-born mother of a teenager killed by a white police officer five years ago and was allowed to resign from the New York Police Department (NYPD) has been &ldquo;robbed of an important emotional and moral victory.&rdquo; Full story here http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741848/champs_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:00 PM #Champs2017: Another record as St Jago&rsquo;s Lyston clocks 24s in 200m prelim http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--Another-record-as-St-Jago-s-Lyston-clocks-24s-in-200m-prelim KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; St Jago&rsquo;s Class Four sprinter Brianna Lyston etched her name in the history books, as the records continue to fall on day one of the 107th ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships under way at the National Stadium.<br /> <br /> Lyston clocked a fast, yet comfortable, 24.00 seconds in the preliminary round of the girls&rsquo; 200 metre to lower the previous mark of 24.21 seconds set by her schoolmate Joanne Reid back in 2015.<br /> <br /> The diminutive sprinter&rsquo;s milestone, which came in a positive 0.1 metres per second wind speed, is the third record of the 2017 championships and second on the girls&rsquo; side.<br /> <br /> She now joins Holmwood Technical&rsquo;s sprint hurdler Shanette Allison and Kimar Farquharson of Calabar as the early record breakers and by all indications there will be more to come over the course of the five-day meet.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Tina Clayton of Edwin Allen, who is expected to be the main danger to Lyston, was also comfortable in heat one in 25.27 seconds. <br /> <br /> She ran in a positive 0.8 metres per second wind reading.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741809/Jago_w300.jpg Local Sports Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:40 PM US launches anti-dumping probe against Chinese aluminum foil http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/US-launches-anti-dumping-probe-against-Chinese-aluminum-foil WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) &mdash; The United States launched an anti-dumping investigation against imports of Chinese aluminum foil on Tuesday, the latest in a series of cases against the country that could result in the imposition of punitive duties.<br /> <br /> "The Trump Administration is unequivocally committed to the vigorous enforcement of America's trade laws and will ensure US businesses and workers are treated fairly," US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.<br /> <br /> US companies filed a complaint early this month saying Chinese aluminum foil imports are dumped into the American market at prices lower than the cost of production, and unfairly subsidized. They name 230 Chinese companies in the complaint.<br /> <br /> Aluminum foil imports from China amounted to US$390 million last year, the Commerce Department said. <br /> <br /> "The Department of Commerce intends to act swiftly to halt any unfair trade practices and will render our decisions at the earliest opportunity, while also assuring a full and fair assessment of the facts," Ross said.<br /> <br /> The US International Trade Commission will review the case by April 24 and if it determines that US companies have been harmed, the Commerce Department could decide this summer to impose punitive tariffs on those goods based on the dumping rate of between 38.4 per cent and 140.2 per cent.<br /> <br /> The previous administration of Democratic president Barack Obama, just before leaving office in January, filed a complaint against China in the World Trade Organization (WTO) over its aluminum imports, saying subsidies granted by Beijing are illegal under WTO rules. <br /> <br /> In the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process, Washington called for consultations with Beijing.<br /> <br /> In the absence of negotiated compromise, the United States could be allowed by the WTO to impose tariffs on certain Chinese imports. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741786/Aluminiumfoil_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:25 PM 'Blanket ban' on corned beef worries JCC http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Blanket-ban--on-corned-beef-worries-JCC KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) says that they are concerned about the &ldquo;blanket ban&rdquo; on corned beef that is still in effect despite revelation that Jamaica receives it supply from facilities that not under investigation. <br /> <br /> The JCC in a release this afternoon commended the Government for what they described as &ldquo;quick action in response to reports out of Brazil concerning the quality of some meat products processed in specific facilities&rdquo;. It also noted that the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries takes its role of protecting Jamaicans very seriously.<br /> <br /> However, the JCC argued that once importers and distributors are able to provide the appropriate documentation regarding the origin of their products and confirm that they are fully standing behind their brands, then the government should at the very least permit them to re-enter the market without any delay. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Both the agencies of government and the importers and distributors of the corned beef must move swiftly on repairing the trust and confidence of the consumer, while the GoJ and the Brazilian authorities should re-affirm the mutual confidence that each other&rsquo;s phyto-sanitary regimes meet the highest international standards,&rdquo; JCC maintained.<br /> <br /> The country has been formally advised by the Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil in Jamaica that the investigation into a number of meat processing facilities in Brazil is underway and that none of the facilities under investigation are exporters of corned beef or other products to Jamaica. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Similarly, a number of the country&rsquo;s most reputable firms, have unequivocally confirmed that their products are sourced from facilities that meet the highest international standards.  <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have heard no claim to the contrary from the ministry indicating that any Jamaican imports are suspected of originating in facilities under investigation,&rdquo; JCC said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741768/cornb_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:11 PM Merit in relocating money from public bodies to Consolidated Fund &mdash; Dr King http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Merit-in-relocating-money-from-public-bodies-to-Consolidated-Fund---Dr-King KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Co-Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), Dr Damien King, says there is merit in the Government&rsquo;s proposed relocation of public bodies&rsquo; financial resources to the Consolidated Fund.<br /> <br /> Speaking on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) television programme, &lsquo;Issues and Answers&rsquo;, last Friday, King said it is understandable that within Jamaica&rsquo;s tight fiscal space, State entities would be keen to secure financial resources to ensure that their specific obligations were adequately funded.<br /> <br /> This, he argued, was logical from the perspective that &ldquo;fiscal resources have been tight in Jamaica for a very long time&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The co-executive director said consequent to this development, over time, many &ldquo;special purpose funds&rdquo; have been created. <br /> <br /> These, he explained, were taxation arrangements earmarked for specific engagements, citing the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).<br /> <br /> &ldquo;While it guarantees funds for all these purposes, the problem is that it doesn&rsquo;t allow a government, at any point in time, to weigh on equal terms competing demands for its expenditure... because it doesn&rsquo;t have access to the total pool of funds,&rdquo; King said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, how do you (for example) weigh the need for drugs at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) against a legitimate need to keep the verges tidy on some highway that tourists and residents on the north coast drive on,&rdquo; King argued.<br /> <br /> Citing each as a legitimate need, he emphasised that the Government, at some point, would need &ldquo;to be able to weigh those two against each other&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> King also contended that successive administrations could have also utilised State entities&rsquo; surplus funds that were sitting in low-interest accounts, rather than borrowing high-cost loans, which have rendered Jamaica highly indebted. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, while we understand why funds are separated... it&rsquo;s an efficient way of managing your funds when you have tight resources. So, there is an argument for pooling them,&rdquo; he added. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741750/Dr-Damien-King_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:44 PM Removal of zinc fencing will make communities safer &mdash; JSIF http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Removal-of-zinc-fencing-will-make-communities-safer---JSIF ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Omar Sweeney, says the $252-million zinc-fence removal programme being undertaken by the entity aims to ensure the safety and security of residents in the targeted communities.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The removal of zinc fencing... is an important aspect of what has to be done to ensure that the police can enter the communities and do what they have to do without the fear of persons hiding behind a zinc fence,&rdquo; Sweeney pointed out. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;When you have up the big zinc fence, thinking you are protecting yourself, you are actually making it more unsafe and instead help persons to hide from the police,&rdquo; he added<br /> <br /> He said the programme will also aim to beautify communities by replacing the zinc fencing with more aesthetically pleasing materials.<br /> <br /> Sweeny was addressing the launch of the programme in Barrett Town, St James, on March 24.<br /> <br /> Approximately $18 million will be spent to remove and replace 492 metres of zinc fencing in the districts of Bottom Vietnam Road, Top Vietnam Road, Walkway and Saigon topside from Blount Street and Vietnam in Barrett Town.<br /> <br /> Member of Parliament for East Central St James and Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said the zinc-fence removal is part of a development programme for Barrett Town, which started with refurbishing of the community complex to provide a multipurpose court for tennis, volleyball, basketball and a field for scrimmage football and cricket.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There will be an emphasis on programmes for the youth,&rdquo; Bartlett emphasised. &ldquo;The Social Development Commission (SDC) and the police are to be involved in building out a marching band and steel band in the community,&rdquo; he noted. <br /> <br /> He informed that some $3 million has been identified for the marching band, adding that instruments are being procured.<br /> <br /> As it relates to the rest of the constituency, Bartlett said that discussions are advanced with the National Water Commission (NWC) to boost water supply from the Martha Brae River in Trelawny. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;They have already received $10 million and will be getting another $100 million to do the Canaan Well, to ensure that the entire East Central all the way to Johns Hall has dependable, potable water that will transform the quality of live for the people in those areas,&rdquo; he indicated.<br /> <br /> The zinc-fence removal programme is being implemented through JSIF&rsquo;s Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), and will benefit 11 communities in six parishes.<br /> <br /> In addition to Barrett Town, other beneficiary communities are Hannah Town, Denham Town, Rose Town, Greenwich Town and Maxfield Park in Kingston and St Andrew; Canaan Heights and York Town in Clarendon; Steer Town, St Ann; Barrett Town and Granville in St James; and Russia, Westmoreland. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741725/Omar-Ed-99_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:32 PM Professor Wendel Abel slaps down interpretation of NCDA ganja report  http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Professor-Wendel-Abel-slaps-down-interpretation-of-NCDA-ganja-report KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Prominent Consultant Psychiatrist Professor Wendel Abel in a bombshell today noted that significant portions of a recent report by the National Council for Drug Abuse (NCDA) that was interpreted by authorities, as saying that there is a 50 per cent increase in the number children and adolescents using ganja, is wrong.<br /> <br /> While speaking on Nationwide&rsquo;s talk program with Cliff Hughes today, Professor Abel pointed out that ganja use has been stable for the most part and that there is no data on hand to suggest a 50 per cent increase in ganja use since Jamaica decriminalised it.<br /> <br /> Abel, who is also Deputy Chairman of the NCDA, was speaking as a raging controversy engulfs Ministry of Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr Winston De La Haye after cannabis law reform advocate Delano Seiveright expressed &ldquo;suspicion&rdquo; about De La Haye&rsquo;s interpretation of the NCDA&rsquo;s recent report.<br /> <br /> Seiveright raised concern about a perceived conflict of interest with De La Haye over the weekend. <br /> <br /> He told OBSERVER ONLINE that, &ldquo;Dr De La Haye, who is the backbone of the NCDA for many years, spent all his life belittling ganja law reform and has been keen at promulgating information that many, including well respected members of the medical community, view as highly questionable and out of sync with current realities. How then can Dr De La Haye be expected to reasonably and expertly guide ganja related health policy?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Abel noted also that the NCDA had in fact stepped up its ganja user prevention program following decriminalisation in 2015.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741670/Wendell-Abel_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:16 PM #Champs2017: Calabar&rsquo;s Farquharson shatters 800m record http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--Calabar-s-Farquharson-shatters-800m-record KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; After signalling intentions earlier in the season, Calabar&rsquo;s Kimar Farquharson finally shattered the ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships Class Two 800m record with a fast 1:51.26 clocking at the at the National Stadium a short while ago.<br /> <br /> Farquharson, running in heat one of the qualifiers, delivered in fine style to take down the second record of the championships and the first on the boys&rsquo; side of action.<br /> <br /> He erased Aldwyn Sappleton&rsquo;s 20-year-old mark of 1:52.27 set back in 1997 to lead the finalists, with his teammate Kevroy Venson (1:56.61) and KC&rsquo;s Tarees Rhoden (1:56.55) also advancing comfortably.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741659/Kimar_w300.jpg Local Sports Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:05 PM Forex: J$128.58 to one US dollar http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Forex--J-128-58-to-one-US-dollar2017-03-28T14-59-55 KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The US dollar on Tuesday, March 28, ended trading at J$128.58, down by 18 cents, according to the Bank of Jamaica&rsquo;s daily foreign exchange trading summary.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar ended trading at J$95.25 down from J$95.77, while the British pound sterling ended trading at J$161.36 up from J$161.20.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741644/forex--3-_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4:58 PM Opposition offers partnership on pension reform http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Opposition-offers-partnership-on-pension-reform KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; People's National Party (PNP) president, Dr Peter Phillips says that the Opposition will support the provisions of the public sector pension Bill.<br /> <br /> However, Dr Phillips insisted on the condition of a timeline, which ensures that the implementation is going in the direction of relieving the financial burden it creates on public revenues.<br /> <br /> He said that based on the information available from the expected actuarial review, the government should be able to guide the process based on a timeline.<br /> <br /> He also suggested that the three-year review period could be brought forward to 18 months, to ensure that a timeline is given for Government to commence contributing to the segregated fund, as well as the scope of the pension programme to meet its objectives.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holiness urged members of Parliament not to make the debate a political issue, as the cost of public sector pension was too much of a burden on the public purse and could threaten capital expenditure or lead to increased debt.<br /> <br /> The debate on the Bill, which will require that government workers start contributing to their pension fund in 2017/18 at the level of five per cent of salary, was suspended until next week.<br /> <br /> Balford Henry<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741625/peter-phillips_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4:42 PM Electronics ban on flights not a long term solution: IATA boss http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Electronics-ban-on-flights-not-a-long-term-solution--IATA-boss MONTREAL, Canada (AFP) &mdash; British and US bans on laptops and tablet computers in flight cabins are not sustainable in the long term, the head of the association representing airlines said Tuesday.<br /> <br /> "The current measures are not acceptable as a long-term solution to whatever threat they are trying to mitigate," said Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association.<br /> <br /> "Even in the short term, it is difficult to understand their effectiveness. And the commercial distortions they create are severe," he said in a speech in Montreal.<br /> <br /> "We call on governments to work with the industry to find a way to keep flying secure without separating passengers from their personal electronics."<br /> <br /> Last week, Washington banned electronic devices bigger than mobile phones on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in seven Middle Eastern countries and Turkey. <br /> <br /> Britain followed with a similar ban from five countries from the Middle East and North Africa, and Turkey.<br /> <br /> US officials said the measure was intended to thwart possible attacks on airliners with small explosive devices hidden in consumer electronics.<br /> <br /> In theory, it would be harder to hide a bomb in checked luggage because these are usually scanned with more sophisticated equipment.<br /> <br /> De Juniac lamented a lack of advance consultation with the airline industry and "little coordination by governments" in the measure's rollout.<br /> <br /> He pointed to pushback from airlines and their passengers who are questioning the security measure, especially after other Western nations chose not to impose a ban.<br /> <br /> "Why don't the US and the UK have a common list of airports?" he asked. "How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others (from the same airport)?<br /> <br /> "And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively at airport checkpoints," de Juniac concluded.<br /> <br /> All of the countries impacted by the ban are allies or partners of the United States: Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.<br /> <br /> The British ban targeted Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.<br /> <br /> Airlines and airports acted quickly to put the new restrictions in place, after they were announced.<br /> <br /> But, de Juniac told a press conference, they would have appreciated "a bit more information" from the US and British governments.<br /> <br /> The ban will have a "significant impact" on airline revenues, he said, as it would lead some passengers to bypass the airports in question in order to avoid any inconvenience.<br /> <br /> Nine airlines in total are affected by the ban.<br /> <br /> Laptops and other electronic equipment in large numbers may pose an additional risk because of their lithium-ion batteries, de Juniac noted.<br /> <br /> In February 2016, the batteries were banned in checked bags on flights by the ICAO for safety reasons, at the request of airlines and pilot associations. That policy will be reviewed in 2018.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741616/Laptop_w504_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4:32 PM More than 3000 student athletes set to compete at #Champs2017 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/More-than-3000-students-set-to-compete-at--Champs2017 KINGSTON, March 28 (JIS) &mdash; Approximately 3,100 athletes from high schools islandwide will be on show at the annual Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls&rsquo; Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston from Tuesday to Saturday.<br /> <br /> A special opening ceremony will be held at the stadium on Friday beginning at 5:00 pm. Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, and other government officials are expected to attend. <br /> <br /> Competitions officer of ISSA, George Forbes, told JIS News that the teams from the schools are making final preparations.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;A lot of schools have been collecting their packages, checking to ensure they have entered,&rdquo; noting that all the athletes would have attained the qualifying standard to enter Champs.<br /> <br /> Among the top schools participating are Calabar High, Wolmer&rsquo;s High, Jamaica College, St Jago High, Kingston College, Titchfield High, Immaculate Conception High, Munro College and The Queen&rsquo;s School.<br /> <br /> However, Forbes said they are now seeing an influx of athletes from other schools across Jamaica. He noted that this is due to a large number of coaches being trained at the GC Foster College of Physical Education & Sport and returning to their communities. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;What we find now is that instead of these schools sending their athletes to &lsquo;big track&rsquo; schools, they are staying at home and they are being trained to participate at Champs without having to go to the big schools,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> As it relates to the health of the athletes, Forbes said the organising committee of ISSA has been working with the Ministry of Health to have the medical facilities equipped at the stadium.<br /> <br />  &lsquo;As per the requirements at the National Stadium, we have at least two ambulances on standby &ndash; one for the patrons, one for the athletes &ndash; and, of course, we have medical posts at stadium east and one in the stadium,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Additionally, Forbes said that people will not be allowed to smoke at the stadium, noting that the no-smoking ban will be enforced by the police.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is the duty of the police to ensure that people who are caught smoking should be dealt with,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> People who smoke at the venue could pay fines ranging from $10,000 for a first offence, $25,000 for a second, and $50,000 for subsequent offences, following a smoking ban implemented through the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013, which took effect on Monday, July 15, 2013.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741588/champs_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4:09 PM #Champs2017: Petersfield High&rsquo;s Nedrick sets new national junior javelin record http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--Petersfield-High-s-Nedrick-sets-new-national-junior-javelin-record KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Kevin Nedrick of Petersfield High School continued a rich vein of form, as he threw a new national junior record of 63.73 metres in the boys&rsquo; Javelin Open at the 107th staging of the much-anticipated ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships currently underway at the National Stadium.<br /> <br /> Nedrick, the overwhelming favourite for the gold medal, bettered the previous junior record of 63.69m set in July 2014 by Orlando Thomas in leading the qualifiers for the event.<br /> <br /> However, he was just shy of the Championship record of 64.08m also set in 2014 by Devon Spencer of St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) as a senior athlete.<br /> <br /> KC&rsquo;s Shakwon Coke (50.59m) went across to the javelin after earlier qualifying for the long jump, to join Nedrick in the final. Rajheim Carby (51.73m) of Munro College and Kobie Henry (50.72m) of Calabar will also line up for the final.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741542/nedrick_w300.jpg Local Sports Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:45 PM St Vincent PM says no gov&rsquo;t is obligated to providing medical internships http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/St-Vincent-PM-says-no-gov-t-is-obligated-to-providing-medical-internships KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) &mdash; The St Vincent and the Grenadines government says it is not obligated to provide internships for people who graduate with degrees in medicine, but must complete an internship before they can practice on their own.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, responding to questions about five nationals who have completed medical programmes in Cuba but have been waiting for years to secure an internship, said &ldquo;In no country in the Caribbean can the state provide the assurance that every person who graduates in medicine will get an internship&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> He said this is because that&rsquo;s a paid position and for which funds have to be allocated.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;However, having said that, we must always make a very special effort, the state that is, to ensure that those whom we have sent away to study in medicine that we provide internship for them,&rdquo; Gonsalves told a news conference.<br /> <br /> Reports are that the government has added some nine new internship positions since 2004, but these are not enough to accommodate the nation&rsquo;s graduates in medicine.<br /> <br /> Gonsalves, who is also finance minister, said some students get internship at other places and that a student who studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica might get an internship at a state scholarship.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Different persons, they apply different places, but, clearly, the state should make an especial effort,&rdquo; said Gonsalves, who told the media that he was not aware of the situation until it was reported in the media.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, I&rsquo;m awaiting a report and on Wednesday I will ask (Minister of Health) Luke [Browne] &mdash; or if I get the chance before&hellip;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;But it is an important question and I&rsquo;d like to find out, for instance, when did the students apply.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The prime minister said he would urge students to apply for internships a good distance before they graduate.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you know you are going to graduate, say, in July 2016, I would expect that sometime before July 2016 you would indicate that you are graduating and tentatively you can apply for a position.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He said a discussion could then take place in the Ministry of Health regarding how many additional positions it would request from the Ministry of Finance.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I would hope that we can get them sorted out, but I wanted, first and foremost, to make the general declaratory statement that there is not an obligation on the part of any government to provide the internship, but that we must make a very special effort that they be give that opportunity to have internships,&rdquo; Gonsalves said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s painful, clearly, for students to study for all these years and don&rsquo;t then have somewhere where they can do their internship in order to move forward with their profession,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741495/Ralph-Gonsalves_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:30 PM Get involved in Irish potato production, Samuda urges young people http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Get-involved-in-Irish-potato-production--Samuda-urges-young-people KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda, has said that in order to achieve the goal of 100 per cent self-sufficiency in Irish potato production the government will be calling on young people to assist with the planting of seedlings on an additional 300 acres of land that will be brought into production.<br /> <br /> Speaking at the launch of the National Irish Potato Programme 2016-2017 at Malton in Manchester on Friday, Samuda said, &ldquo;We cannot reach that goal of 100 per cent unless we can supply the seedlings on a timely basis. We have to develop our own planting system, where we prepare, through greenhouses; the seedlings that we need to expand across Jamaica in the areas that are more suitable for the growing of Irish potato.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Lamenting the need for an increase in the quantity and quality of potato seeds, the agriculture minister said that there needs to be an increase in the volume of quality seedlings.<br /> <br /> In addition, Samuda said that Jamaica needs to acquire new varieties of Irish potato seeds and engage in the use of new techniques, and new equipment.  However, he said that he was confident that with the support of the Ministry through the RADA team, working with the level of commitment that they have, he was &ldquo;absolutely certain that within the next 4 years we are going to meet the 100 per cent supply necessary to be 100 per cent self-sufficient in Irish potato production&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> To date, 2,594 farmers have planted over 753 hectares of Irish potato with some 228.45 hectares, representing 3,336.52 tonnes reaped. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741438/Samuda_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:52 PM #Champs2017: KC jumpers out front http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--KC-jumpers-out-front KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Captain of the Kingston College Carey McLeod has signalled his team&rsquo;s intentions in leading from the front, as the 107th staging of the much-anticipated ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships is now underway at the National Stadium.<br /> <br /> McLeod, who is tipped for a possible three gold medals at this year&rsquo;s championships, was an easy qualifier in the boys&rsquo; Class One long jump.<br /> <br /> He achieved a leading mark of 7.70 metres on his first attempt. The composed athlete is also favoured to take the triple jump and join teammates for the 4X100m relays.<br /> <br /> Tasrico Bell (7.27m) of Vere Technical and Safin Wills (7.06m) of Jamaica College also progressed from Flight One along with Kevouhn Lewars-Smith (7.00m) of Ardenne High, Alexander Thompson (6.91m) of St George&rsquo;s College and Calabar&rsquo;s Daniel Bogle (6.83m).<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, another KC standout Shakwon Coke also progressed comfortably from Flight Two with a mark of 7.36m on his first attempt, which has intriguingly set things up nicely for the North Street team.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741420/Carey_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:34 PM #Champs2017: Holmwood Tech's Allison sets Class two 100m hurdles record http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Champs2017--Holmwood-Tech-s-Allison-sets-Class-two-100m-hurdles-record KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The heat is now on at the 107th staging of the much-anticipated ISSA Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Championships as Shanette Allison of Holmwood Technical established the first record of the meet winning her preliminary of the girls&rsquo; Class Two 100 metre hurdles at the National Stadium.<br /> <br /> Allison, who is one of the favourite for the gold medal in the event stamped her credentials by clocking a fast 13.30 seconds in heat two of the qualifiers to lower the previous mark of 13.37 seconds set in heat one by Britany Anderson of Vere Technical.<br /> <br /> Allison&rsquo;s time was clocked in a positive 0.3 metres per second wind speed.<br /> <br /> Earlier, Anderson, the Class Two favourite clocked 13.37 seconds to better the then previous mark of 13.38 seconds set by Peta-Gaye Williams in 2013.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, defending champion Daszay Freeman of Manchester High was also easy in qualifying in 13.65 seconds.<br /> <br /> Sherdon Cowan http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741411/Holmwood_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:11 PM Trinidad PM travels to US for talks with oil companies http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Trinidad-PM-travels-to-US-for-talks-with-oil-companies PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) &mdash; Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley leaves here on Wednesday on a two-day visit to the United States for talks with officials of several oil companies, including BP Amoco, Shell and ExxonMobil, according to a government statement.<br /> <br /> Rowley, who will be accompanied by Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, the Honourable Stuart Young, will centre on &ldquo;strategies for navigating the challenges facing the energy sector and opportunities for growth and partnerships here at home and in the region&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> During the visit, the delegation will also meet with officials from EOG Resources.<br /> <br /> Earlier this month, Rowley said his administration is hoping a new gas agreement signed with Venezuela would come on stream as early as July to avert further closure of energy plants at Point Lisas in Central Trinidad.<br /> <br /> He said that the agreement, which also involves the multi-national oil company, Royal Dutch Shell &ldquo;will bring that gas to market in the shortest possible time&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Shell is expected to build a 17 kilometre (10.6 miles) pipeline from Venezuela&rsquo;s shallow-water Dragon gas field to its Hibiscus platform off the north coast of Trinidad.<br /> <br /> He said the talks with ExxonMobil was necessary given the US-oil giant&rsquo;s involvement in the emerging Guyana oil  and energy sector and Trinidad and Tobago is positioning itself to be a player in the industry of that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.<br /> <br /> Rowley said that with Guyana expected to producing at least 100,000 barrels of oil daily during the early stages of its oil industry, Trinidad and Tobago with a refinery could be in a position to assist in that regard. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741370/Keith-Rowley01_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:54 PM Tourism Ministry launches Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Tourism-Ministry-launches-Jamaica-Blue-Mountain-Culinary-Tour KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The rich history, culture and cuisine of the Blue Mountain region were on full display, as the Gastronomy Network of the Ministry of Tourism hosted a soft launch of the Blue Mountain Culinary Tour on Sunday.<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Blue Mountain Tour will be one of the first projects of the Gastronomy Network, which was created with the intention to foster the growth of culinary tourism as a product niche for Jamaica, according to the ministry.<br /> <br /> A release from the ministry disclosed that the tour currently features 15 participating eateries and attractions such as Caf&eacute; Blue, The Gap Caf&eacute;, RafJam Bed and Breakfast and Old Tavern Coffee Estate &ndash; with more expected to come on board before the trail officially begins later this year.<br /> <br /> Speaking at the launch ceremony at Belcour Lodge in Irish Town, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett indicated that the concept was designed to not only highlight the gastronomic product in the region, but to also directly benefit community members and tour operators who conduct business within the area.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are trying to bring the wealth of tourism into the communities that are in the Blue Mountain area. The concept is a low density, low impact, soft tourism which drives a different type of demographic. It will bring a mixture of nature and creativity with additional efforts on our parts to include a little bit of hard infrastructure work, because we have to do the tours along nice roadways,&rdquo; said Bartlett.<br /> <br /> Chairman of the Gastronomy Network, Nicola Madden-Grieg, also shared that the network has informed tour operators that the tour is customizable.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Tour guides have the option to combine the culinary experiences with stops at places such as Newcastle, Heritage Gardens, and Holywell. Individuals as well as tour operators may also choose to have their own itineraries including stops at area bars and food stalls,&rdquo; said Madden-Grieg.<br /> <br /> During the soft launch the ministry also disclosed that the Gastronomy Network will be hosting the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival in March 2018.<br /> <br /> The three-day event, which is in the preliminary planning stages, will take place in the Blue Mountain region featuring activities such as training and development seminars for coffee farmers; coffee farm and factory tours; culinary tours and experiences; and a coffee exhibition. International coffee buyers will also be invited to attend the festival. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741316/Culinary-Tour-1_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, March 28, 2017 1:30 PM