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 Canada defends visa requirement for visits to North American country http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Canada-defends-visa-requirement-for-visits-to-North-American-country CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) &mdash; A senior Canadian diplomat has defended the decision not to grant visas to a number of St Lucians even though her country would like more people to visit.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;The rate is very high because we don&rsquo;t receive proper documentation for visas,&rdquo; says Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Marie Legault.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Hopefully we can work on that and we can solve the situation in the future,&rdquo; she said, adding that in addition to improper documentation, false information is also being provided to Canadian authorities.<br /> <br /> The Canadian diplomat stressed that St Lucia and Canada have a strong relationship and it is important to recognise the issue of Canadian security.<br /> <br /> On September 11, 2012, Canada implemented visa requirements for visitors to Canada including those from St Lucia and St Vincent.<br /> <br /> Canadian authorities were reported to be concerned that criminals from both countries could legally change their names and acquire new passports. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13661889/Marie-Legault-300x275_w300.jpg Local News Wednesday, February 22, 2017 7:52 AM JPs in western Jamaica to be trained today http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/JPs-in-western-Jamaica-to-be-trained-today KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; All Justices of the Peace (JPs) in western Jamaica are invited to the launch of   training for that part of the island at the Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Mount Salem, St James, today.<br /> <br /> The ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 am, is targetted at JPs from Trelawny, Hanover, St James and Westmoreland.<br /> <br /> Custos of Trelawny, Paul Muschett, told JIS News that it is important for the JPs to attend the event, as it will serve to update and enlighten them on their expanded role, within the context of the new regulations to increase their effectiveness and eventually reduce the case loads in the court system.<br /> <br /> He said they can expect to undergo mediation training, which will allow them to play a greater role in the communities in reducing tension through intervention and mediation. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Through the training, they will be better equipped so that persons who have sensitive information can come to them, allowing them to pass this information to the security forces and eventually enhance the security of the communities,&rdquo; the Custos said.<br /> <br /> The launch will be held under the patronage of the High Commissioner of Canada, Sylvain Fabi.<br /> <br /> Muschett noted that the Canadian Government has been instrumental in trying to improve the justice system in Jamaica through improved technology and the court system. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13661882/mush_w300.jpg Local News Wednesday, February 22, 2017 7:39 AM Pit latrines to be replaced in schools by March 2018 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Pit-latrines-to-be-replaced-in-schools-by-March-2018 KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; More schools across the island are to benefit from the construction of 26 sanitation blocks this fiscal year.<br /> <br /> A sum of $200 million has been set aside in the 2017/18 Estimates of Expenditure to carry out this activity under the School Sanitation Project. <br /> <br />  The project aims to replace pit latrines with flush toilets in order to reduce the contamination of underground water and reduce the spread of diseases caused by faecal matter.  <br /> <br /> To date, under the project, sanitation blocks have been completed in 59 schools islandwide. <br /> <br /> The project was started in January 2012, and, following further extensions, is slated to end in March 2018.<br /> <br /> It is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), with money provided through the PetroCaribe Development Fund.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13661877/Pit-Latrine_w300.jpg Local News Wednesday, February 22, 2017 7:22 AM Work advanced to establish Jamaica Centre for Tourism and Innovation  http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Work-advanced-to-establish-Jamaica-Centre-for-Tourism-and-Innovation KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Work is advanced to establish the Jamaica Centre for Tourism and Innovation, which will target training and certification for the hospitality industry&rsquo;s labour force.<br /> <br /> This was disclosed by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, during the presentation of the 2016 Tourism Service Excellence Programme (TSEP) semi-finalists at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, today. The centre aims to create a certified workforce based on academic skills and competence.<br /> <br /> It will serve to accelerate the transformation of tourism enterprises by engaging institutions and persons to stimulate and initiate new ideas as well as harnessing science and technology to transfer knowledge into practice within the sector.<br /> <br /> The facility will offer a practical curriculum that complements existing hospitality programmes at several tertiary institutions. <br /> <br /> Its programmes will target aspiring supervisors, managers and other hospitality professionals in areas such as culinary, spa and hospitality management.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you are working in the tourism sector and you are in a supervisory position... but you are not accredited, you can then come to us and be fully accredited so that you can take your next step up the ladder of management in the industry,&rdquo; Bartlett said.<br /> <br /> He contended that the institution will mark a change in the tourism sector&rsquo;s labour-market arrangements.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;(It will be) based also on a global accredited arrangement that will enable (graduates) to be accepted in any country in the world that you go in the tourism industry,&rdquo; the minister said.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Bartlett advised that a pension scheme for tourism workers will be implemented in September.<br /> <br /> He said this forms part of the Government&rsquo;s undertaking to ensure that &ldquo;social security arrangements&rdquo; are provided for workers. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;After you have worked and done well and given this high-quality service above self, you must not be left to flounder on the rocks of retirement. You must be anchored safely on the shores of a secure retirement,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> In the meantime, Bartlett commended the TSEP semi-finalists for their commitment to the industry and urged them to continue giving high-quality service that will ultimately redound to Jamaica&rsquo;s benefit. <br /> <br /> The TSEP awards, which are being reintroduced, bestow the highest recognition to individuals and organisations in the tourism sector for service excellence. <br /> <br /> The 2016 individual semi-finalists are Wilfred Chambers from the Bob Marley Museum; Marie Oswald, Kingston Craft Market; Winsome Wynter, Jamaica Customs Agency; Curley Colliston Roberts, Rose Hall Great House; Simone Ffolkes, Sandals Royal Plantation; Jason Cammock, Sandals Royal Plantation; and Anthony Thaxter, Trident Hotel.  <br /> <br /> The shortlisted organisations are The Jamaica Pegasus hotel; Leisure for Pleasure; VIP Attractions; the Boardwalk Village; Sunset at the Palms; Couples San Souci; Franklyn D. Resort; Trident Hotel; Appleton Estate; and Jakes Holdings.<br /> <br /> All semi-finalists have been selected from nominations received from the island&rsquo;s resort areas, covering all aspects of the industry, and were shortlisted by a panel of independent judges. <br /> <br /> The semi-finalists will vie for the top prizes at a grand presentation ceremony at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Montego Bay on March 4 later this year. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12938161/201734__w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:50 PM Report identifies IS suicide bomber as British citizen of Jamaican origin http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Report-identifies-IS-suicide-bomber-as-British-citizen-of-Jamaican-origin LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) &mdash; A suicide bomber from the Islamic State group was a British citizen detained at Guantanamo Bay, a family member told The Times newspaper on Wednesday.<br /> <br /> The British fighter who IS claimed detonated a suicide bomb against Iraqi forces outside Mosul was named in British media as Jamal al-Harith, who was detained at the United States base between 2002 and 2004.<br /> <br /> An image released by IS and published on Monday by the SITE Intelligence Group was confirmed as al-Harith by his brother Leon Jameson.<br /> <br /> "It is him, I can tell by his smile. If it is true then I&rsquo;ve lost a brother, so another family (member) gone," Jameson told The Times.<br /> <br /> Channel 4 News cited an unnamed family member and another anonymous source as confirming Harith was pictured.<br /> <br /> The photograph shows him smiling, dressed in camouflage clothing and appearing to be sat in a vehicle with wires and switches in the background.<br /> <br /> The British government said it could not verify the reports.<br /> <br /> "The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria, and against all travel to large parts of Iraq. <br /> <br /> "As all UK consular services are suspended in Syria and greatly limited in Iraq, it is extremely difficult to confirm the whereabouts and status of British nationals in these areas," a spokeswoman told AFP.<br /> <br /> Harith, a Muslim convert of Jamaican origin who was born Ronald Fiddler, was jailed in Afghanistan by the ruling Taliban because he held a British passport.<br /> <br /> After the regime was toppled he was arrested by US troops in early 2002 and sent to Guantanamo, where he alleged he experienced beatings and degrading treatment.<br /> <br /> On returning to Britain in 2004 he was briefly questioned by police and released without charge.<br /> <br /> Harith travelled to Turkey and crossed into Syria in April 2014, the BBC reported citing Islamic State registration papers.<br /> <br /> The following year his wife, Shukee Begum, travelled to Syria along with her five children in what she said was an effort to convince her husband to abandon IS.<br /> <br /> After being reunited with Harith she was not allowed to leave IS territory and was smuggled out, she told Channel 4. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660831/Jamal-al-Harith_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:20 PM Take sex breaks on work time, suggests Swedish councillor http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Take-sex-breaks-on-work-time--suggests-Swedish-councillor STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP) &mdash; Swedes should take a one-hour paid break from work to go home and have sex with their partners, a local councillor suggested in a proposal Tuesday aimed at improving people's personal relationships.<br /> <br /> "There are studies that show sex is healthy," Per-Erik Muskos, a 42-year-old city councillor for the northern town of Overtornea, told AFP after presenting the motion.<br /> <br /> He said couples were not spending enough time with each other in today's society.<br /> <br /> "It's about having better relationships," he said.<br /> <br /> He noted there was no way to verify that employees do not use their hour for other purposes than spending time with their partners or spouses.<br /> <br /> "You can't guarantee that a worker doesn't go out for a walk instead," Muskos said, adding that employers needed to trust their employees.<br /> <br /> Muskos said he "saw no reason" why the motion wouldn't pass.<br /> <br /> After the Finns and the French, Swedish full-time employees worked the least in Europe with only 1,685 hours on average in 2015, according to a study by economic research institute Coe-Rexecode.<br /> <br /> Brits worked an average of 1,900 hours and Germans 1,847 hours in 2015. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660805/office-centre_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 8:45 PM No need to touch IMF US$600m &mdash; BOJ governor http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/No-need-to-touch-IMF-US-600m---BOJ-governor KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Governor, Brian Wynter, does not anticipate that the country will need to immediately draw down on the US$600 million available to the country under the new US$1.6-billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA).<br /> <br /> The figure comprises an initial US$430 million that was made available upon the agreement&rsquo;s signing and an additional US$170 million that will be provided on the Board&rsquo;s approval of the October to December 2016 review, currently being conducted by a visiting IMF Mission.   <br /> <br /> Wynter said that Jamaica&rsquo;s net international and non-borrowed reserves, which exceed US$2 billion, are sufficient to ensure that &ldquo;we have the means to manage through ordinary shocks&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> He was speaking at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) quarterly media briefing in downtown Kingston on February 21.<br /> <br /> The Governor underscored the SBA&rsquo;s importance in safeguarding Jamaica against significant shocks that could derail the country&rsquo;s economic programme, citing a retracement in global oil prices as an example.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is important that we have macroeconomic stability unwritten in such a way (as facilitated in) this precautionary stand-by line... to provide that reassurance, particularly to investors, that even if bigger risks occur, you could continue with your plans and not get dislocated,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Wynter is optimistic that Jamaica will pass the first SBA quarterly review.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our assessments indicate that all of the quantitative performance criteria and structural benchmarks have been met. These include the target for non-borrowed reserves, as also the inflation target in the SBA of one to nine per cent, (which sees) the out-turn for December 2016 at 1.7 per cent, being comfortably within that range,&rdquo; he added. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13433462/Brian-Wynter-4_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 8:14 PM Mosquito saliva vaccine? NIH tests new way to fight illness http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Mosquito-saliva-vaccine--NIH-tests-new-way-to-fight-illness WASHINGTON (AP) &mdash; Wanted: 60 people willing to be bitten by mosquitoes to test a new kind of vaccine &mdash; one that acts against the bugs' saliva.<br /> <br /> Rather than separate vaccines against Zika or other mosquito-borne diseases, the new approach aims to protect against multiple infections by triggering the immune system to rev up in response to the bite itself.<br /> <br /> The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is recruiting volunteers for a safety study of the experimental vaccine, being developed by two London companies.<br /> <br /> Researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will give volunteers either vaccine or dummy shots. The volunteers must return later to NIH's Bethesda, Maryland, hospital to be bitten by mosquitoes through a special netted device. The mosquitoes are infection-free; researchers will track the volunteers' immune responses. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12551984/Aedes_aegypti_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 7:50 PM Expanded Mandela Highway expected to ease travelling time http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Expanded-Mandela-Highway-expected--to-ease-travelling-time KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; With the expansion of Mandela Highway in St Catherine under way, the Government is fulfilling its commitment of upgrading the island&rsquo;s road network.<br /> <br /> The Mandela Highway is one of the country&rsquo;s major roadways, and while the ongoing work may result in delays, particularly during peak hours, motorists and pedestrians will experience significant improvement in travelling time when the project is completed in August 2018.<br /> <br /> This roadway is one of the vital links between the Kingston metropolitan area and the northern, western and southern parts of the country.<br /> <br /> In an interview with JIS News, Manager of Communications and Customer Service, National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw, says expansion of the highway will ease travelling time for motorists and improve traffic flow. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Persons will be able to get to work feeling more energised. Persons will get to work earlier. There should be a reduction in the loss of productive time,&rdquo; he adds.<br /> <br /> Shaw argues that the improved road condition is also expected to have a positive impact on the country&rsquo;s fuel bill.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Fuel is not produced here in Jamaica. It&rsquo;s something that we have to spend foreign exchange to purchase. So, if vehicles become more fuel-efficient in terms of being able to move from point A to point B that much quicker, then that also will benefit the country, as we&rsquo;ll be able to reduce our fuel bill,&rdquo; he says. <br /> <br /> Project Manager, NWA, Linval Ramdial, says the project, which began in August 2016, is slated to last 24 months and is approximately 30 per cent complete. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are currently doing the cement mixing pile and we are also supplying and installing the sub grade material for the road. We are also doing some amount of drainage work, and storm-water drainage works,&rdquo; he notes.<br /> <br /> He says the next phase of operation should see the workmen building two bridges, one of which will be overhead, adding that this should be completed by May. <br /> <br /> Ramdial points out that keeping the roadway open during the construction period and ensuring that the services of the utility companies remain intact are some of the challenges being faced during the construction period. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Doing the cement mixing pile means we are going underground about 7.5 to nine metres and, of course, we don&rsquo;t want to damage National Water Commission (NWC) mains, Digicel cables or Flow cables,&rdquo; he says. <br /> <br /> Ramdial tells JIS News that collaboration among the various companies is being undertaken to ensure that this process is carried out seamlessly.<br /> <br /> In the meantime, Ramdial is appealing to drivers to slow down on the Mandela Highway to ensure their safety as well as that of pedestrians and workers.<br /> <br /> Usually, 80,000 vehicles traverse the roadway daily, and the current upgrading work focuses on 3.6 kilometres of roadway from the Six Miles overpass to the off/on ramps to the Highway 2000 East West Corridor. <br /> <br /> Construction is being carried out by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) under a US$64-million contract, part of the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP), being financed through a concessionary loan from the Government of China.<br /> <br /> Upgrading of the roadway will increase the number of lanes from four to six and the road will be lifted in some sections. In addition, the east-bound ramp to Washington Boulevard will be increased to two lanes, up from the current single lane.<br /> <br /> The contract to widen and upgrade Mandela Highway was signed in July 2016 and work began a month later. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13561913/Mandela-Highway_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 7:31 PM O-WRAP: Man charged with rape of 11-y-o...Burger King buys Popeyes... &lsquo;Big Deal&rsquo; debuts on Billboard http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/O-WRAP--Man-charged-with-rape-of-11-y-o---Burger-King-buys-Popeyes-----Big-Deal--debuts-on-Billboard 1. St James man charged with rape of 11-y-o girl<br /> <br /> A 20-year-old man was yesterday charged with abduction, sexual touching, grievous sexual assault and rape of an 11-year-old girl in his community on Saturday. Full story here<br /> <br /> 2. Christopher Martin's Big Deal debuts on Billboard<br /> <br /> The 16-track Big Deal album, the first worldwide release by Jamaican singer Christopher Martin, debuts on the Billboard reggae album chart this week. Full story here<br /> <br /> 3. Man charged with murder of journalist Peter Abrahams<br /> <br /> The police today charged a 61-year-old man with the murder of well known journalist and commentator Peter Abrahams. Full story here<br /> <br /> 4. Burger King's owner buys Popeyes chicken<br /> <br /> The parent company of Burger King said today that it had reached a deal to buy American fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Full story here<br /> <br /> 5. Man charged with murder of missing Kingston woman found in drum<br /> <br /> A Bull Bay man was today charged with the murder of 23-year-old Nile Brown &mdash; a Burger King employee whose body was found in a drum on Sunday, February 5. Full story here<br /> <br /> 6. Jamaica achieves milestone in chairing both UN tourism executive bodies<br /> <br /> Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica is the only country in the world that has the distinction of chairing both executive bodies of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Full story here<br /> <br /> 7. Denham Town escapee recaptured in Negril<br /> <br /> Negril police today recaptured a 34-year-old man who escaped from the Denham Town Police lock-up in September last year. Full story here<br /> <br /> 8. Establishment of national identification agency to commence 2017/18<br /> <br /> The Government says that a national identification agency will begin establishment in the coming fiscal year, as it moves to develop a National Identification System (NIDS). Full story here<br /> <br /> 9. US to expand pool of people targetted for deportation<br /> <br /> The Trump administration is greatly expanding the number of people living in the US illegally who are considered a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations, according to agency documents released Tuesday. Full story here<br /> <br /> 10. Holness says changes coming to boost efficiency of pension funds<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness, speaking at a Sagicor Pension Investment Seminar today, said imminent policy changes will be made to existing pension schemes. Full story here http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660628/deportation_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 7:00 PM Trade unions want meeting with labour minister http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Trade-unions-want-meeting-with-labour-minister KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU) are seeking a meeting with Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson to discuss concerns about the building and construction industry.<br /> <br /> In a letter to the minister yesterday, the unions accused foreign contractors of ignoring benefits due to the workers in the industry, and using the advantage to under-bid local contractors for new projects.<br /> <br /> They accused Chinese contractors of ignoring basic fringe benefits, including vacation and sick leaves and end-of-project payments, as well as refusing to observe the contractual standards set by the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) for the building and construction industry and the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) provision regarding trade union representation.<br /> <br /> In their letter to the minister yesterday, the union said that they were seeking the meeting to discuss the issues, before they overwhelm the industry.<br /> <br /> The letter was signed by BITU vice-president Alden Brown, and NWU deputy island supervisor Owen Saunderson. <br /> <br /> Balford Henry http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493445/Shahine-Robinson_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 6:52 PM JCF High Command to revisit alma maters in 'youth leader power lunches' series http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/JCF-High-Command-to-revisit-alma-maters-in--youth-leader-power-lunches--series KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) today launched a series entitled, &lsquo;Youth Leaders Power Lunches,&rsquo; which will see members of the High Command and assistant commissioners of police host lunchtime mini forums with select students from their alma maters.<br /> <br /> Approximately 20 students, chosen based on their present leadership roles within their schools, will participate at each installment.  <br /> <br /> In a release today, the JCF said the series is part of its 150th Anniversary celebrations and is intended to complement youth focused interventions such as the IPAD For Life Empowerment Summer Camp and the Police Youth Clubs in Schools programme.<br /> <br /> JCF Corporate Communications Director, Nathelie Taylor was quoted as saying: "As future leaders of the country, their thoughts on national security are valued so these lunches will give our senior officers the opportunity to listen to the concerns and suggestions they may have on issues of crime, police-citizen interaction, public order and other matters. In addition to those with formal leadership roles, we have also asked the schools to include other influential students who need to learn to positively channel the clout they have.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Sandals Resorts, through the provision of lunches, has partnered on this initiative, which kicks off in their home areas, beginning at the Prospect College in St Ann, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Fitz Bailey's former school. <br /> <br /> There will be three similar visits on Wednesday, when ACP Ealan Powell will visit his old stomping grounds, Cornwall College in St James while Head of Area 4, ACP  Devon Watkis will visit Seaforth High in St Thomas and ACP Wray Palmer, Head of the Inspectorate of Police (IOC) will head back to BB Coke High in St Elizabeth. <br /> <br /> On Friday, the Green Island High School in Hanover will welcome beloved past student ACP Clifford Chambers. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660620/JCF_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 6:37 PM Jamaica achieves milestone in chairing both UN tourism executive bodies http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jamaica-achieves-milestone-in-chairing-both-UN-tourism-executive-bodies KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica is the only country in the world that has the distinction of chairing both executive bodies of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).<br /> <br /> Bartlett said that he is currently the Chairman of the Board of Affiliates in the UNWTO and that former tourism minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, chaired the Executive Council.<br /> <br /> The minister noted that Jamaica, over the years, has been a highly respected voice within the United Nations and has seen a number of its representatives given top positions in agencies within the organisation.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;It is against that background, therefore, that Jamaica is being watched and that the country is being looked at to provide leadership within the tourism sector worldwide,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The minister said it is within this context that the UNWTO conference to be hosted by Jamaica at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Rose Hall, St James, from November 27-29, is being viewed as a critical litmus test for the nation.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We cannot fail&hellip;we cannot perform below expectations. Nobody expects Jamaica to perform in any subpar manner,&rdquo; Bartlett said.<br /> <br /> As it relates to the conference, he noted that the ministry will be engaging the country&rsquo;s private sector, drawing on its varied areas of specialisation as critical tools to assist with putting on a quality event.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We want to establish memoranda of understanding with private-sector entities in order to partner in the delivery of certain critical modules for the conference,&rdquo; the minister explained.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We will be drawing heavily from private-sector inputs in terms of intellectual activities as well as to have case studies and best practices that we can put forward to the world,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13650945/ed-bartlett_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 6:15 PM Holness says changes coming to boost efficiency of pension funds http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Holness-says-changes-coming-to-boost-efficiency-of-pension-funds KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Prime Minister Andrew Holness says imminent policy changes will be made to existing pension schemes.<br /> <br /> Speaking at the annual Sagicor Pension Investment Seminar today, the prime minister said the changes will ensure greater efficiency of pension funds.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In the very near future there will be policy changes to ensure, facilitate, and promote better efficiency in terms of investments and in terms of how pension funds structure their assets to align more with the investment infrastructure thrust of the Jamaican Government,&rdquo; said Holness.<br /> <br /> He added that the government must find a way to attach the right kinds of investment to existing pension funds.<br /> <br /> Adding that most of our pension funds are tied to government bonds, Holness said evidence suggests this is not the best way to secure the funds.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are looking (as government) to figure out how we can coordinate the investments that must be made in terms of developing our infrastructure with the pool of pension funds that exist,&rdquo; he added.<br /> <br /> The prime minister further suggested that the best way to secure the pension funds is to tie them to long term income generating projects such as infrastructure projects and real estate, which will in another fifty years, continue to generate income.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is a symbiotic relationship there, that we would benefit now from the investment in the infrastructure, while securing a longer term income and a better quality of life for our retirees and pensioners&rdquo;, Holness added.<br /> <br /> The prime minister also encouraged Jamaicans to take greater responsibility for their future quality of life by investing and saving in formal pension schemes. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660531/Holness--Byles-and-Danny-Williams_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 5:47 PM Forex: J$128.04 to one US dollar http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Forex--J-128-04-to-one-US-dollar2017-02-21T14-20-09 Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar ended trading at J$96.62, down from J$97.73, while the British pound sterling ended trading at J$158.91, down from J$159.04. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13152567/forex_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 5:19 PM Christopher Martin's Big Deal debuts on Billboard http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Christopher-Martin-s-Big-Deal-debuts-on-Billboard KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The 16-track Big Deal album, the first worldwide release by singer Christopher Martin, debuts at number three on this week's Billboard reggae album chart.<br /> <br /> Released on February 10 via VP Records, the album sold 500 copies in its first week.<br /> <br /> The chart is led by reggae outfit Fortunate Youth whose self-titled album sold 1,714 copies to debut at number one.<br /> <br /> Last week's number one seller Lost in Paradise by Common Kings falls to number two with 517 copies. It opened last week at number one with over 3,000 copies.<br /> <br /> Kevin Jackson http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660339/Christopher-Martin_w300.jpg Local Entertainment Tuesday, February 21, 2017 5:02 PM RADA to get new equipment http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/RADA-to-get-new-equipment KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is to receive additional equipment this fiscal year to enhance operations at seven agro-processing incubators.<br /> <br /> This will be facilitated under the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), which has been allotted $126.5 million in the 2017/18 Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House.<br /> <br /> The sum will also be used to continue business-development support to seven agro-processing facilities and small/micro agro-processors, facilitate community tourism portal maintenance, supply and install an industrial pump, and complete an economic and financial analysis of REDI subprojects. <br /> <br /> The REDI project seeks to improve market access for micro and small-scale rural agricultural producers, and tourism product and service providers by facilitating the strengthening of the supply-chain linkages between the agricultural sector and end users in processing, the tourism sector, fast food chains, restaurants and supermarkets. <br /> <br /> This objective is also carried out by supporting the development of community-based tourism as a viable option and opportunity for economic investment; strengthening the capacity building of rural groups, to be able to plan and implement income-generating projects; and ensuring greater sustainability of rural development through interagency collaboration. <br /> <br /> Achievements under the project up to December, 2016 included the implementation of several rural subprojects in agriculture and rural tourism. These included completion of 140 greenhouses, completion of three pig-rearing facilities, nine Fishermen Cooperatives equipped with cold storage and safety equipment benefiting 2,000 fisherfolk, and one sorrel juice factory completed and equipped to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification.<br /> <br /> Also, one cold-chain supply and post-harvest facility was completed; one bammy factory enhanced and equipped to HACCP certification; seven crop-production areas, including three agro parks, equipped with drip-irrigation kits and water-storage capacity;  160 persons from the community tourism sector benefited from Team Jamaica training; Jamaica Community Tourism Experiences brand launched, increasing visibility of community tourism;  15 informal entrepreneurial activities legally registered since REDI&rsquo;s intervention; international technical assistance to support the agricultural and tourism sectors; business-plan development and mentorship for agricultural and tourism enterprises; four ginger shade houses completed; 690 drip-irrigation kits provided to six communities in St Elizabeth; and three agro-processing facilities completed in St Elizabeth, St James and Westmoreland. <br /> <br /> The project is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) with funding by the Government of Jamaica and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12870156/rada_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 4:50 PM US working with T&T to fight money laundering, terrorism financing http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/US-working-with-T-T-to-fight-money-laundering--terrorism-financing PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) &mdash; The United States is providing Trinidad and Tobago with assistance in combating money laundering and terrorism financing, the US Embassy here announced Tuesday.<br /> <br /> It said that John Murphy, an economic crime advisor from US Treasury, is here assisting the government as part of Washington&rsquo;s ongoing partnership with the government building capacity in the security sector.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This technical assistance is based on an agreement signed between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago in August 2016. The US Department of Treasury Office of Technical Assistance Economic Crimes Team, funded by the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, provides capacity and technical assistance in anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism in various countries.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The embassy said that during his stay here, local stakeholders established a Trinidad and Tobago Financial Crime Working Group to work collaboratively in effective implementation of anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism procedures.<br /> <br /> It said that Murphy, a specialist in financial crimes, began his work with US Treasury&rsquo;s Office of Technical Assistance in 2012, with projects in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Most recently, Murphy served as the team leader in Ghana and Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Prior to his work overseas, Murphy was a subject matter expert/advisor for the US Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in Washington, DC, and served for 21 years as a law enforcement officer with the New York City Police Department in both the Organized Crime Investigation Division and the Joint Organized Crime Task Force, the embassy added. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13642898/Keith-Rowley01_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 4:28 PM Senate to debate bill to make Maritime Institute a university on Friday http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Senate-to-debate-bill-to-make-Maritime-Institute-a-university-on-Friday KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Upper House of Parliament is set to debate a bill to confer university status on the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) at its next sitting on Friday. <br /> <br /> The bill, entitled the 'Caribbean Maritime University Act, 2017', was passed by the House of Representatives last month. <br /> <br /> Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry piloted the bill, which proposes to repeal the Caribbean Maritime Institute Act under which the institution operates.<br /> <br /> The CMI is the only international entity approved for maritime training in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Over the years, the institute has expanded its scope of programmes to include degrees at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels.<br /> <br /> As a result of this expansion, the CMI has gained national, regional and international recognition by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport of the United Kingdom, the International Maritime Organisation, CARICOM, and the World Maritime University.<br /> <br /> The bill is likely to be passed on Friday and sent to the governor-general for assent. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13620813/Mike-Henry--May-Pen-_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 4:13 PM PNP to host crime forum in MoBay http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/PNP-to-host-crime-forum-in-MoBay KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) today said  it will be hosting a series of islandwide consultations on various issues with a forum entitled "Stronger together - Break the silence, break the violence".<br /> <br /> The conference will take place on Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Montego Bay Community College and speakers will include Peter Bunting, Opposition spokesman on national security and representatives from the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Constabulary Force and the minister's fraternal.<br /> <br /> In a release to the media, General Secretary Julian Robinson was quoted as saying: "We intend to make concrete recommendations on how we believe the issue of crime and violence can be tackled. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;While a number of the plans shared by the Government are commendable, we are concerned that the current budgetary allocation to national security is inadequate and some of the proposals such as 'preventative detention' are fraught with the risk of abuse and don't go to the heart of the crime problem".<br /> <br /> The PNP in its release said it intends to host similar forums in parishes across the country, as well as other forums designed to allow residents to share their ideas and recommendations for solving problems in the country. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13642958/Julian-Robinson_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 3:54 PM Burger King's owner buys Popeyes chicken http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Burger-King-s-parent-buys-Popeyes-chicken OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) &mdash; Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Canada's Tim Hortons donut shops, said Tuesday it has reached a deal to buy American fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.<br /> <br /> The sale price is US$1.8 billion, or US$79 per share, according to a statement, representing a 27 per cent premium over Popeyes' recent average stock price.<br /> <br /> Oakville, Ontario-based Restaurant Brands International (RBI) said Popeyes would continue to be managed independently.<br /> <br /> Under the new ownership, the chicken chain will be "accelerating its pace of growth" with the opening of new restaurants in the United States and elsewhere, it added.<br /> <br /> Popeyes currently has 2,600 fast-food restaurants in the United States and 25 other countries around the world.<br /> <br /> The deal, which is expected to close by early April, adds to RBI's portfolio of more than 20,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660121/BKpopeyes_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 3:43 PM Ball in Bravo's court, says Cameron http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Ball-in-Bravo-s-court--says-Cameron PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) &mdash; West Indies Cricket Board president, Dave Cameron, has remained vague on the future of embattled left-hander Darren Bravo.<br /> <br /> With the career of the Trinidadian up in the air following his sending home ahead of the Tri-Nations Series in Zimbabwe last November, Cameron refused to be drawn definitively on the player&rsquo;s future, saying only &ldquo;the ball is in his court&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;My understanding is that Mr Bravo has met with the executive of the WICB and the ball is in his court, as to whenever he is willing to come back and play cricket,&rdquo; Cameron said at a recent WICB town hall meeting in Port of Spain.<br /> <br /> Clearly incensed by Cameron&rsquo;s criticism of his &ldquo;declining&rdquo; form and &ldquo;poor performances&rdquo;, Bravo slammed the Jamaican administrator in a Twitter outburst in November last year, labelling him a &ldquo;big idiot&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The WICB promptly cancelled Bravo&rsquo;s match/tour contract and sent him home from the tour but also gave him until 4:00 pm of November 11, to remove the offending tweet and issue an apology for his actions.<br /> <br /> Failure to do so, the WICB said at the time, would result &ldquo;in further disciplinary action, including referral to the WICB disciplinary committee&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Asked at the town hall meeting if he had received an apology from Bravo, Cameron again repeated: &ldquo;The ball is in his court.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Bravo did not play in the WICB&rsquo;s Regional Super50 for his native Trinidad and Tobago Red Force and with no clear information emerging from the regional governing body on the matter, it remained uncertain when the impasse with the player was likely to end.<br /> <br /> On Monday, Bravo was picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League auction but will need a No Objective Certificate from the WICB in order to participate.<br /> <br /> Bravo is West Indies&rsquo; leading Test batsman with 3400 runs from 49 Tests and at an average of 40.<br /> <br /> Only last October, he stroked a superb century in the day/night first Tests against Pakistan in Dubai. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13417847/Dave-Cameron_w300.jpg Sports Tuesday, February 21, 2017 3:19 PM Reid pleased with utilisation of resources in St Elizabeth schools http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Reid-pleased-with-utilisation-of-resources-in-St-Elizabeth-schools MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator Ruel Reid, has expressed satisfaction at how financial and other resources are being used to assist the teaching-learning process in schools across St Elizabeth. <br /> <br /> In an interview with JIS News following a recent tour of a number of primary and high schools in the parish, the minister said the early disbursement of funds to educational institutions, not only in St Elizabeth but across the island, has been making a significant difference in improving operations.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;At all the schools that I have visited, the principals have said how appreciative they have been of how early they have been receiving the funding, and they are able to do far more with these resources, because we have been far more efficient in getting the money to them. So, that has been very comforting and encouraging,&rdquo; Reid said.<br /> <br /> The minister toured the Glen Stewart Primary and Maggoty, Black River and Newell High schools.<br /> <br /> He said as a minister who has worked in the formal education system, these tours have given him a true appreciation of the very high interest being shown in education by all stakeholders.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very encouraging as principal and now as minister of education that as I tour these schools, you are feeling the energy&hellip;you are having a sense that people are really interested in education,&rdquo; the minister said.<br /> <br /> Reid said he was particularly impressed by the progress being made at Newell High School by the administration, teachers and, in particular, the 1,010 students.<br /> <br /> He told JIS News that as a school which has had its fair share of challenges, the institution has made remarkable progress and is now rated as a model secondary institution in St Elizabeth.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They are meeting the needs of the diversity of students they have. This is how we can reach out to all different types of students that come to our schools and how we can uplift them,&rdquo; the minister said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660042/Councillor-Jeremy-Palmer--HM-Green--HM-Reid--Principal-Paul-Grant-and-Jason-Jenzell_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 2:48 PM St James man charged with rape of 11-y-o girl http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/St-James-man-charged-for-raping-11-y-o-girl ST JAMES, Jamaica &mdash; Twenty-year-old Ricardo Grey of Norwood, St James was yesterday charged with a number of sexual offences after he allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in his community on Saturday, February 18.<br /> <br /> Grey has been charged with abduction, sexual touching, grievous sexual assault and rape.<br /> <br /> Reports from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse are that about 12:30 pm the child was walking along a roadway when she was allegedly abducted by Grey and sexually assaulted. <br /> <br /> Ricardo Grey is scheduled to appear in the St. James Parish Court on Friday, March 3.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660020/Arrested--1-_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 2:40 PM St Thomas bus operators resume work after protest http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/St-Thomas-bus-operators-resume-work-after-protest ST THOMAS, Jamaica &mdash; The Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) this afternoon announced that operators on the route between Morant Bay and Kingston returned to work this morning following a protest yesterday.<br /> <br /> The operators say they withdrew their services in a bid to get the Ministry of Transport to address problems they  are facing regarding robot taxis, the issuing of badges, and poor road conditions. <br /> <br /> A release from JATOO said that the St Thomas operators agreed to return to work this morning following a substantive meeting between Joseph Shoucair, Chairman of the Transport Authority, and JATOO, which represents the operators. <br /> <br /> JATOO members, along with operators, say they will await the decision of the Transport Authority by Friday of this week. <br /> <br /> The JATOO chairman, Louis Barton, also promised to engage operators at an agreed venue in St Thomas within two weeks. <br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the group commended Shoucair for his &ldquo;unprecedented engagement&rdquo; with the operators, adding that they intend to encourage the chairman to facilitate similar engagements across the island. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660013/Jatoo_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 2:25 PM