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 Bank fees bad, have you seen the airline fees lately? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Bank-fees-bad--have-you-seen-the-airline-fees-lately_90091 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> We spend a lot of time &mdash; justifiably so &mdash; fretting about bank fees which, in my view, are rapacious and unconscionable. A close friend of mine shocked me when she said that she went to the ScotiaCentre, downtown Kingston, and asked a teller to change a $5,000 note to five $1,000 ones. The teller told her the fee for doing that was $380!<br /> <br /> But airline fees are equally worthy of attention. I recently bought a ticket on Delta Airlines, from Kingston to Atlanta, Georgia. The fees were ridiculous! Here&rsquo;s what the flight receipt revealed:<br /> <br /> Ticket Issue Date: 16FEB17<br /> <br /> Ticket Expiration Date: 16FEB18<br /> <br /> CHARGES<br /> <br /> Air Transportation Charges<br /> <br /> Base Fare $380.00 USD<br /> <br /> Taxes, Fees and Charges<br /> <br /> United States - September 11th Security Fee (Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee) (AY) $5.60 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Passenger Service and Security Fee (EK) $25.02 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Airport Improvement Fee (EL) $10.00 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Stamp Tax (JM) $4.70 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Passenger Facility Charge (JT) $3.00 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Passenger Aviation Service Charge (UC) $8.00 USD<br /> <br /> United States - Transportation Tax (US) $36.00 USD<br /> <br /> Jamaica - Travel Tax (WD) $35.00 USD<br /> <br /> United States - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Fee (APHIS User Fee - Passengers (XA) $3.96 USD<br /> <br /> United States - Passenger Facility Charge (XF) $4.50 USD<br /> <br /> United States - Immigration and Naturalization Fee (Immigration User Fee) (XY) $7.00 USD<br /> <br /> United States - Custom User Fee (YC) $5.50 USD<br /> <br /> TICKET AMOUNT $528.28 USD<br /> <br /> Help, Mr Editor! They&rsquo;re killing us with fees!<br /> <br /> Raphael Lawrence<br /> <br /> riffraph54@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656196/259524_86170_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Really, Prime Minister? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Really--Prime-Minister_90102 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I do not know about anybody else but, as a Jamaican, I was appalled to visit the social media page of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and see a video about him visiting the family of murdered teen Shanika Gray.<br /> <br /> For the prime minister&rsquo;s camera people and editing people to actually find the time to do a video about his visit to the family speaks volumes that he is still profiling.<br /> <br /> Seriously, Mr Prime Minister! Every moment is not a public relations moment!<br /> <br /> As a Jamaican am I supposed to say, &lsquo;Well done&rsquo;?<br /> <br /> Not only is this an invasion of the privacy of the family to have them in a video on your page during their time of mourning, but it is a bit of exploitation.<br /> <br /> If the prime minister wants to show he cares he could have made an address to the nation on the matters of our missing women and girls, and let the nation know about the plans being implemented to make them safer in their own country.<br /> <br /> My questions to the prime minister is: Are you going to visit the family members of everyone who has lost a loved one to murder? And will you have your video and camera crew to take shots and make videos of your visit to post on your social media page for self-praise and self-gratification? What else could it be?<br /> <br /> You, Sir, will not get any praise from me. And I believe you should really be ashamed of yourself for using the murder of an innocent young woman as a prop in your sad performance on social media. That&rsquo;s how it seems.<br /> <br /> Michelle Bradshaw<br /> <br /> phillipsmichelle57@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656187/220753_86176_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Make Caymanas great again! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Make-Caymanas-great-again_89867 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Since the Government announced its intention to divest the Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) I have kept my ears peeled to the discussions that have ensued. For many years, CTL has not been running as efficiently or as profitably as it could. In my opinion, Supreme Ventures Limited, with its track record for success and reputation, is best suited to run the entity. Supreme Ventures is a knowledgeable company with years of experience that ought to bring about positive change to CTL.<br /> <br /> I&rsquo;m a regular patron at the Caymanas track and a punter, and I&rsquo;m excited to see what the future holds for the track and, by extension, horse racing in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> I was encouraged by the recent staging of the Diamond Mile which, I think, shed a positive light and attracted a wider cross section of people to the track.<br /> <br /> Supreme Ventures plans to diversify channels that will lead more locals and tourists to make use of the track as well as make bets online. Imagine the contribution to our economy and to the industry of sport overall.<br /> <br /> I look forward to hearing of the plans to breathe new life into the entity and boost earnings. Seeing those plans fully implemented and reaping the fruit will make Caymanas great again!<br /> <br /> Patrice McLean<br /> <br /> Kingston 8<br /> <br /> patmclean74@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13641653/caymans_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Where was the tax break &lsquo;stimulus&rsquo; spent? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Where-was-the-tax-break--stimulus--spent_90096 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The &ldquo;$1.5-million tax break stimulus&rdquo; story looks like it&rsquo;s coming to bump.<br /> <br /> Finance Minister Audley Shaw has promised new and increased indirect tax measures, and there is talk of using more National Housing Trust money to fund the second half of the promised tax break. Something isn&rsquo;t adding up.<br /> <br /> We have legions of financial and economics experts in our universities, business, media, Government, and Opposition. Perhaps they can explain to lay people such as myself why the first half of the tax break does not appear to have provided the anticipated stimulus to the economy, thus averting what looks like a substantial shortfall in revenue. Where was it spent?<br /> <br /> Was the first half of the tax break not substantially spent by relieved taxpayers on local goods and services? Or did it fatten the pockets of producers overseas? If the latter is true, then we had better find a way to fix that quickly.<br /> <br /> Or is it that the Government has simply not been able to collect enough of the increased taxes that such a substantial &ldquo;stimulus&rdquo; has provided?<br /> <br /> This seems to be a basic analysis that the sun needs to shine on before the second half of the supposed tax break economic stimulus takes effect.<br /> <br /> Errol W A Townshend<br /> <br /> Ontario, Canada<br /> <br /> ewat@rogers.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13643964/Shaw-and-Holness_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Ours is a cultural problem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Ours-is-a-cultural-problem_90095 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The recent anti-crime plans that the Government has announced, plus the supposed solutions to the relative stagnation that our country have experienced for many years, will and have mostly all come to naught largely because we have failed to recognise that the root to many of our problems is cultural. As such, and sadly, I am afraid the solutions to these problems are far into the distant future.<br /> <br /> For many years now we have been trying to come to grips with this crime monster that is threatening to destroy us. The problem, however, is that most of us no longer see our high crime, and especially homicide rates, as anything out of the ordinary. Indeed, most of us have come to expect our annual murder total of over 1,200 people as normal. Should we have only 100 murders in a year, we would not see that as symptomatic of a major problem, but as indicative of us living in a paradise!<br /> <br /> The problem with us is that we have become accustomed to aggressiveness and brutishness. We are quick to kill each other for the slightest of disagreements. Look at our electronic media, for instance, our music videos are replete with musicians promoting aggressive gangsterism as the norm. Our young men, and our young women, are being encouraged to become wild beasts. This has been the accepted cultural norm for some time now, and as this is so profitable &mdash; especially to sections of our media &mdash; no amount of laws will change that any time soon.<br /> <br /> This cultural problem also extends into how we see ourselves. For all intent and purposes, there is no science in us. We have been cultured to think like a very small and insignificant people now for a very long time. That is why we don&rsquo;t want to engage in the sciences or anything that requires us to use our brains. As such, for us, greatness is simply being able to provide the entertainment. The few of us who are science-minded are seen by the majority as nerds, weirdos, or even gays! I fear that all of the science fairs that we have in this country are for naught &mdash; like wasting powder on blackbirds, as our culture clearly is not very accommodating to the sciences.<br /> <br /> This strange culture of ours feeds into this simple-mindedness. That is why we tend to excel in things like entertainment, athletics, religion, music, and a lot of talk. I fear this is how things will remain for many years to come. Culture is a very hard thing to change &mdash; especially when we enjoy it.<br /> <br /> Thinking logically is not something that can be legislated, it has to be cultured. In our culture, it is much easier to fight and kill when we have a disagreement, because that requires very little thinking &mdash; but much action. Some say this may be because of slavery, but I really think this has roots much deeper than that.<br /> <br /> Notice that our number one economic industry is tourism. This is the provision of entertainment. Our culture is well suited for this. We have no great plan to become a great scientific and industrial power because we can&rsquo;t. And we can&rsquo;t because we have a culture that does not encourage us to think.<br /> <br /> We are poor and we think it is normal. It doesn&rsquo;t take much thinking for a people to be poor and aggressive to each other, and this poverty and aggressiveness, including our intellectual poverty, is definitely symptomatic of this strange culture of ours &mdash; a culture that reinforces poverty and backwardness.<br /> <br /> Michael A Dingwall<br /> <br /> michael_a_dingwall@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13597703/246473_81291_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM JATOO will fight this new tint rule http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/JATOO-will-fight-this-new-tint-rule_89752 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) consulted with many of our members on the pronouncements made last Monday, February 13, 2017 by the Transport Authority on the removal of tint from public passenger vehicles (PPVs).<br /> <br /> JATOO members are bus and taxi operators who are affiliated with other associations. We are designated as independent operators. All of our members who were consulted are opposed to this new edict and have mandated us to seek legal advice on this issue.<br /> <br /> JATOO notes that the minister in charge of transportation was off the island when this decision was made and have since written to the minister asking for a meeting with him to get a clear understanding of the way forward.<br /> <br /> JATOO was specifically barred from the meeting on February 13, 2017 at the Transport Authority. We therefore don&rsquo;t have first-hand information on what took place, and now, days after the meeting, there is no written information on what is to be done. We see the usual shortcomings in regulating transportation by the authorities. It seems clear, however, that the meeting did not take the concerns of the overwhelming majority of owners and operators into consideration.<br /> <br /> Already transport operators who are members of other associations have been protesting this Transport Authority decision even while removing the tint from their vehicles, and we support them. The following is the position of JATOO on the PPV tint removal issue:<br /> <br /> 1. PPVs are certified by both the Island Traffic Authority and the Transport Authority as roadworthy as per the Road Traffic Act. Operators get into business with this commitment/contract from the regulators. It is against natural justice for the law to be changed arbitrarily. We consider it a breach of contract.<br /> <br /> 2. We don&rsquo;t agree that the removal of the agreed tint from PPVs will address the crime problem.<br /> <br /> 3. The real issue is security for the transport sector. In 2016 alone over 35 transport operators have been killed. JATOO have made numerous attempts to have this matter addressed by the relevant authorities, but nothing has been done.<br /> <br /> 4. The legal &lsquo;red plate&rsquo; operators, who are obeying the law, are the ones who will be targeted first in this new enforcement regime. Illegal operators will not be affected by the new rule. They operate private cars with tints as dark as midnight.<br /> <br /> 5. JATOO members will oppose the removal of the factory tint as these were certified by the regulators at the time of the granting of the PPV licences. We will take this issue to as far as the law allows.<br /> <br /> JATOO is appealing to the public to be vigilant. Do not to take a vehicle which does not have a red licence plate. All vehicles must allow you to see through the vehicle from one side to the other.<br /> <br /> Louis Barton<br /> <br /> President<br /> <br /> Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators<br /> <br /> Kingston 5<br /> <br /> jatoojamaica@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12677967/186643__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, February 17, 2017 12:00 AM Do protests really work? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Do-protests-really-work-_89755 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential elections there have been numerous protests across the USA &mdash; at airports, town halls, in major cities &mdash; and across the globe. I was fortunate to attend one and was amazed by the energy, camaraderie, and solidarity. It was raw, it was real, it was powerful. The slogans, posters, placards were colourful and on point. And, being in the company of thousands standing up for the same cause was empowering and humbling.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Your hands are too small, you can&rsquo;t build a wall,&rdquo; crowds chanted. And &ldquo;pay your taxes...pay your taxes!&rdquo; &mdash; a dig at the Trump&rsquo;s refusal to release his tax returns. The message was loud and clear; people will not sit back idly and watch their human rights trampled upon.<br /> <br /> Protesters strongly denounced racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and other hateful rhetoric. The recent ban against seven Muslim countries to travel to USA, and closing the door on refugees, was just as offensive. People also protested women&rsquo;s rights, abortion rights and planned parenthood support.<br /> <br /> Now that the courts have ruled three times against Trump&rsquo;s travel ban, no one can deny that the voice of the people was heard in all this. News now is that protests have also erupted on reports on immigration enforcement raids in several states.<br /> <br /> Since the hashtag #grabyourwallet started trending last year, the campaign has been mounting to urge people to use their wallets to protest Trump&rsquo;s Administration and policies by boycotting companies associated directly with the Trump brand. The president&rsquo;s daughter, Ivanka, has seen a sharp decline in sales for her fashion line in recent months as more high-profile outlets drop the line, citing declining sales. The boycott is having an impact.<br /> <br /> There was also the women&rsquo;s march in Washington, DC, days after Trump&rsquo;s inauguration, which drew crowds bigger in numbers than the inauguration ceremony, according to reports. Marches were held in major cities around the globe on the same day, in solidarity.<br /> <br /> Thanks to the media, there is always another outlet to protest and vent as we debate topical issues. The satirical reviews on<br /> <br /> Saturday Night Live, which poke fun at the Administration, will rub some the wrong way and, like cartoons, they don&rsquo;t go unnoticed and often they reflect perception and what people are really thinking.<br /> <br /> Government is so much bigger than the ego or self-interests of any one person. Despotism is repulsive and counterproductive. Fear can make us feel vulnerable and ashamed, but one should never allow an Administration to make anyone feel any less than. Reality is, voters will accept the results of an election in a healthy democracy, but that will not give an Administration a free pass. In democracies we have a vote, but we also have a voice, and can find many ways to express it.<br /> <br /> P Chin<br /> <br /> chin_p@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13622939/256717_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Friday, February 17, 2017 12:00 AM Work to demolish crime, Holness, not just dent it http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Work-to-demolish-crime--Holness--not-just-dent-it_89753 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his one-year-old Administration have brought more work upon themselves by doing good work so far.<br /> <br /> This conclusion comes out of observing the Administration at work and from recalling the saying that, &ldquo;The reward for good work is more work.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Part of the problem for the Administration, however, is increasing demands and higher expectations from the Opposition and other areas of society.<br /> <br /> In this context, it is encouraging that the prime minister and members of his Administration seem determined to continue working decisively, despite resource limitations, to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished in the national interest.<br /> <br /> Evidence of this determination comes from the prime minister&rsquo;s recent statement that the time for &ldquo;talking&rdquo; has ended and is being replaced, on his part, by action. &ldquo;We can talk afterwards,&rdquo; he declared. He has also called upon Jamaicans to no longer &ldquo;expect&rdquo; or assume that it will be &ldquo;government as usual&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Perhaps government as usual would/should include detailed, extensive announcements which virtually telegraphs to everyone, including criminals, exactly where, when, what, and how the Government&rsquo;s next move against crime will take effect. Hopefully it will also mean massive moves to demolish crime, as opposed to the usual desire to put a dent in crime.<br /> <br /> Naturally, until murder and other crimes are eliminated in Jamaica, Opposition spokesmen and other naysayers will continue to insist that nothing is being done. It is also still true that when all is said and done, more will always be said than done.<br /> <br /> But the prime minister and his Administration must take heart and be encouraged by well-thinking Jamaicans to continue working with unshakable determination in the interest of all Jamaica. <br /> <br /> C Anthony<br /> <br /> Kingston 10<br /> <br /> carltongor@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13596548/Andrew-H_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Friday, February 17, 2017 12:00 AM A look at health literacy http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-look-at-health-literacy_89750 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It is quite unfortunate that when we speak about literacy and all its variations we tend to overlook health literacy. Health literacy is the extent to which an individual has the capability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.<br /> <br /> Regrettably, in spite of numerous interventions over the years, Jamaica still has not reached 100 per cent literacy. This sad reality can and does have long-term and devastating consequences, especially on our elderly population, the subset often inflicted and impacted by lifestyle diseases.<br /> <br /> The inability to read may put one&rsquo;s health in jeopardy since the individual will not have the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to, for example, understand nutrition labels or read a doctor&rsquo;s instructions regarding how to administer medication. In too many instances patients end up taking the wrong dosage of the medication, either by overdosing or by taking less than the required dosage, because they are illiterate &mdash; either way the individual does not benefit and there may be risks.<br /> <br /> Sadly, too, there are instances where the caregiver is not able to read and as such the health of the individual is further compromised. This may be compounded by the fact that literacy could affect the accuracy of some self-maintenance acts, such as the measurement of medication, as well as how one calculates and understands one&rsquo;s blood sugar and blood pressure readings accurately.<br /> <br /> As a society we need to redouble our efforts to work towards the goal of 100 per cent literacy. There needs to be more public education targeting especially our elderly, who are among the most vulnerable in the society.<br /> <br /> The non-government organisations and other interest groups need to do more outreach in respect to targeting illiteracy in our nation. Our churches need to engage the elderly more in assisting them in areas of their health. While it is commendable that a number of churches have embarked on having health fairs and days which service the wider community, more engagement regarding the elderly and shut-in needs to be done in order to assist in making the lives and health of our citizens more comfortable.<br /> <br /> Health literacy is an issue which requires our attention since it is the bloodline through which the solutions towards sustainable development will be achieved.<br /> <br /> In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, &ldquo;It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Wayne Campbell<br /> <br /> waykam@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> @WayneCamo<br /> <br /> Letters to the Editor Friday, February 17, 2017 12:00 AM Suggestions for the &lsquo;Stay Alert&rsquo; app http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Suggestions-for-the--Stay-Alert--app_89639 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Here are some critical tips to enhance the government-approved/sponsored Stay Alert app and to reduce confusion.<br /> <br /> Firstly, re the dialog box: &ldquo;Your GPS is switched off or inaccessible and this will prevent you from using certain features.&rdquo; This dialog box needs to tell the user which critical features are affected, and could read thus: &ldquo;Your GPS is switched off or inaccessible and this will prevent you from using certain audio-visual emergency features.&rdquo; I have heard that some of these SOS services are data-free. Let the user know.<br /> <br /> Secondly, the activatable &ldquo;Alert&rdquo; and &ldquo;Panic Mode&rdquo; buttons should be given more priority and not placed on the same page, with the information buttons &ldquo;Report&rdquo; and &ldquo;The law&rdquo; placed below.<br /> <br /> Put the &ldquo;Panic Mode&rdquo; button within the first half of the square with larger font and then use smaller font to explain horizontally: &ldquo;This will alert the police. Are you sure ?&rdquo; Or &ldquo;911 equivalent&rdquo;, something to that effect.<br /> <br /> Thirdly, put the &ldquo;Alert&ldquo; button below the &ldquo;Panic Mode&rdquo; in large font, separated by a line, and again use smaller font to explain what pressing that button will do. The user should be able to differentiate between the purposes of the &ldquo;Panic Mode&rdquo; and &ldquo;Alert&rdquo; buttons, thereby making their priority explicit rather than suggestive.<br /> <br /> Then you can put the &ldquo;Report&rdquo; and &ldquo;The law&rdquo; or &ldquo;Legal&rdquo; information buttons on another page and link them by an info button, menu button, etc, maybe with even smaller writing at the bottom of the same page. Take a survey and see which is preferable. The substantive point is to avoid detraction from and/or confusion with the space/section/area of the &ldquo;Alert&rdquo; and &ldquo;Panic Mode&rdquo; buttons.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the app could have an &ldquo;Updates&rdquo; section through which the constabulary force&rsquo;s secretaries could submit information on authentic status reports or on missing and abducted people, avoiding trouble-ridden areas in breaking news, etc. It could even be the constabulary force&rsquo;s Twitter feeds, scrolling marquees, etc.<br /> <br /> Jamaica needs a fact-checking website or app where the police can submit status reports beyond<br /> <br /> Twitter. We also need to protect tourism, so a closed<br /> <br /> Facebook group of interested local individuals could be created. The Diaspora can wait for the media reports.<br /> <br /> The app needs updating and the police would receive fewer accidental calls from people attempting to set up the app.<br /> <br /> Kudos to you on the improved registration process, however.<br /> <br /> Ryan O&rsquo;Neil Seaton<br /> <br /> Kingston 8<br /> <br /> herestoresmysoul@live.com <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13099160/212147__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM Is Andrew Holness a demagogue? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Is-Andrew-Holness-a-demagogue_89693 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Is the prime minister of Jamaica a demagogue? I ask this question against the background that, when he was leader of the Opposition and was doing his many tours around the country trying to trump up votes to get into Jamaica House, he made several commitments and appealed to the popular desires and prejudices of many.<br /> <br /> When I looked for the meaning of the word, demagogue, it states that it is a &ldquo;political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument&rdquo;, and I think that is exactly what Andrew Holness did when he was in Opposition in order get into office.<br /> <br /> We need not look far on the number of popular promises that he made without any rational thinking to come to the conclusion if he is a demagogue or not. First, the $1.5-million income threshold tax plan was to see several people getting up to $18,000 and this has not occurred. We were told that they would not introduce a tax package to fund the tax plan, yet this was done. Does this not make Holness a demagogue?<br /> <br /> Let us also look at the fact that Holness stood in Mandeville and made a promise to the people of Jamaica that, if they voted his party into power, they would be able to sleep with their windows and doors open, and they would not be a victim of the murderous gunmen who have us under siege. But look at where we are at now &mdash; a 42 per cent rise in murders to date compared to the same period last year. Does that not make Holness a demagogue?<br /> <br /> Holness appealed to the popular desires and prejudices of the people when he said that, within 100 days of his Administration, he would have legislation started on impeachment, but not a word on that. Does that not make him a demagogue?<br /> <br /> He said he would have a grand referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice and the contentious buggery law; what has happened to that? We have heard nothing from the prime minister about the legalising of ganja, which he promised to work on while he was on the campaign trail. Does this not make him a demagogue?<br /> <br /> Finally, Holness said he would also introduce term limits for the office of the prime minister, but not a word out of him on this matter since he has been sworn in.<br /> <br /> Given all the promises that were made by Holness while he was trying to gain State power, and given that we can come to the conclusion that he has not kept all that I have listed above, and that he was merely appealing to the popular desires and prejudices of many without using rational thinking, one can leave with no other option but to agree that indeed he is a demagogue.<br /> <br /> Ralston Chamberlain<br /> <br /> Toronto, Ontario, Canada<br /> <br /> ralston.chamberlain@alum.utoronto.ca<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12620900/182831_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM Ease the plight of our pensioners http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Ease-the-plight-of-our-pensioners_89697 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> This is an open letter to the Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson:<br /> <br /> I am making a plea on behalf of the pensioners of this country.<br /> <br /> While there has been increases in the minimum wage (however small) in the past few years, I am hard-pressed to recall when last there has been an upward adjustment in the benefit to pensioners.<br /> <br /> Given the cost of living which obtains today, the average person cannot exist on as little as $2,000 per fortnight.<br /> <br /> The minimum payable to these seniors should be at least $3,500-$4,000 fortnightly.<br /> <br /> While being acutely aware of the constraints within which the Government must operate, perhaps a bonus when each book is renewed may be more feasible.<br /> <br /> Either way, something needs to be done to ease the plight of our seniors.<br /> <br /> Concerned<br /> <br /> Kingston 19 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11134718/World-Postal-Day-1_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM Where are the hundreds of deportees? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Where-are-the-hundreds-of-deportees_89329 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> We read reports of the hundreds of deportees who are sent home from America, Canada and England and the five of us professional retirees are unable to find them. We called around and nobody can tell us where to find them.<br /> <br /> Among us, we found two young relatives who were shipped back to Jamaica by strict, law-abiding family members. The first one, an 18-year-old grandnephew, decided to &ldquo;skull&rdquo; school and hang out with some fellows he&rsquo;d just met. After much warning and pleading, he was sent back by relatives. The other one, a granddaughter, after only six months in New Jersey, decided to copy some classmates and come in late from school and &lsquo;back-answer&rsquo; her parents with accent and attitude. Her father slapped her one night when she again broke the rules. She lashed them with a loose tongue and then called the police. She was put on a plane the following day and is now back in Green River District.<br /> <br /> We became impatient the other day and decided to make enquiries in Half-Way-Tree. Loaders were out in their numbers, and I went to one who was saying &ldquo;wanna&rdquo; and &ldquo;gonna&rdquo; and &ldquo;Crass Roids&rdquo;. In my most grandmotherly voice I asked, &ldquo;Son, are you a deportee?&rdquo;&rsquo; He looked at me with wide, intelligent eyes, and without ceremony heaved my 125 pounds in the nearest bus. I was loaded into the nearest seat.<br /> <br /> I collected what was left of my bearings and rang the buzzer as the bus moved to the next stop. My friends collected me and we moved over to the church for we heard they were helping deportees.<br /> <br /> But we have to know where are the hundreds of deportees who landed here for we want to help in placing them in useful occupations. Is it true they are left at the airports where some of them may find willing relatives and/or once-close friends and old church members, and others of them commit crimes that are foreign to our island? When we find them can we take them to the Ministry to Social Security, Labour and New Birth?<br /> <br /> Veronica Blake Carnegie<br /> <br /> veronica_carnegie@cwjamaica.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13271622/227219__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM A tale of two airlines http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-tale-of-two-airlines_89710 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Last November, as I was travelling from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston on Caribbean Airlines with my four pieces of luggage and my Jamaican accent, I was expecting to carry-on two pieces (a laptop and a carry-on bag) and to pay US$30 for one extra check-in piece.<br /> <br /> The check-in attendant told me that because the carry-on bag was 17 lb overweight it would have to be checked in, and I would have to pay US$205.<br /> <br /> Despite my pleas, no mercy was to be had and I had to demand a receipt. To add salt to the wound, when I got to Norman Manley one of my bags was missing and I had to make a trip to the airport the following day when it arrived.<br /> <br /> A few days later when I happened to look at the receipt, I saw that there was no way the items on the receipt could add up to US$205. Since then I have made numerous pleas to Caribbean Airlines customer services to no avail. I have e-mail to prove all this.<br /> <br /> On my way to Toronto from Kingston by Air Canada two weeks later with the same carry-on bag weighing about the same amount, I was politely told as I was boarding the aircraft that the bag was too heavy and that it would be placed with the check-ins and I could pick it up on the carousel with my other luggage in Toronto.<br /> <br /> Now, I wonder why Caribbean Airlines would offer a different level of service than Air Canada? Hmm.<br /> <br /> Harold E Briscoe<br /> <br /> harold.briscoe@outlook.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12483502/174545_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:00 AM OUR does not regulate cable service http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/OUR-does-not-regulate-cable-service_89621 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> On February 7, 2017, the<br /> <br /> Jamaica Observer published a letter from a FLOW customer who complained about her favourite shows being dropped from her cable package.<br /> <br /> In her letter she queries what is the Office of the Utilities Regulation (OUR) doing about this situation?<br /> <br /> While we welcome every opportunity to assist utility consumers, the mandate of the OUR does not extend to the regulation of the provision of cable services in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The OUR regulates telecommunication services and by extension the providers. However, our authority is restricted to telephone (landline and mobile) and broadband (Internet). Therefore, we do not regulate the cable aspect of FLOW&rsquo;s business, which falls under the purview of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, 5th Floor, Victoria Mutual Building, 53 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5; e-mail:<br /> <br /> info@broadcom.org.<br /> <br /> For the record, in addition to telecommunications services, the OUR regulates the provision of electricity, water and sewerage services. Additionally, the Consumer Affairs Unit of the OUR stands ready to assist customers who have grievances with their utility providers and are not satisfied with how they are being handled. <br /> <br /> For additional information about the work of the OUR we would like to encourage your readers to visit our website at<br /> <br /> www.our.org.com and attend our &lsquo;Parish Connections&rsquo; outreach series which are being staged across the island. It is designed to connect with utility customers and keep them updated about their rights and responsibilities. These engagements have placed utility companies Jamaica Public Service, National Water Commission, FLOW, and Digicel in direct contact with consumers. <br /> <br /> Elizabeth Bennett Marsh<br /> <br /> Public education specialist<br /> <br /> Office of the Utilities Regulation<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13644251/258484_85114_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Maybe we need a Trump to tackle Ja&rsquo;s crime problem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Maybe-we-need-a-Trump-to-tackle-Ja-s-crime-problem_89585 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> With Donald Trump&rsquo;s confrontational, headstrong, and unflinching attitude towards policy and the presidency, many have found him difficult to get along with and have placed him in the category of &lsquo;most unreasonable&rsquo;. In fact, the US is already reeling from decisions made by the president in the first three weeks of his tenure.<br /> <br /> Say what you will, but sometimes we need a strong leader who is not willing to compromise on what he believes to be the right thing to do. Don&rsquo;t get me wrong, I am neither a Trump supporter, nor am I in favour of his policies or practices, but I do believe there is a place for someone like that in our Government.<br /> <br /> Crime affects all of us indirectly and directly, without investments and development our country will eventually become dormant, thus leading to more crime due to lack of income.<br /> <br /> Crime and development affect each other, more crime equals less development and less crime equals more development. Jamaica stands to lose billions because of violence. Not many people make the connection between the effects of crime and the country&rsquo;s economic development.<br /> <br /> Investors will retract from building infrastructure in Jamaica simply because crime is out of control. With everyone in a state of fear, locked behind closed doors and avoiding public spaces, who will be making use of the developments? Nobody. Investors won&rsquo;t receive returns, and the country will not see growth.<br /> <br /> The saying, &ldquo;the devil gives work to idle hands&rdquo; is exactly what&rsquo;s happening to Jamaica right now. These criminals aren&rsquo;t looking at the bigger picture. They are not allowing our country to reap the rewards of having investors assist to grow our economy. Instead, they&rsquo;re robbing and killing for thousands of dollars when they could gain much more.<br /> <br /> How do we get them to see the bigger picture? The longevity of a crime-free country? How do we get them to think before they act?<br /> <br /> I get it! We all get it! No one person has the magic wand to stop crime or the manual as to how it should be stopped. Far too long we&rsquo;ve been singing the same old song that this needs to be done or &ldquo;let&rsquo;s do that&rdquo;. I say it&rsquo;s time to change the tune, we need a radical approach. The prime minister has said that crime reduction is their priority and I believe the efforts are genuine. But, maybe we need a no-nonsense, unwavering man in the seat, someone like Trump, possibly?<br /> <br /> Claude McPherson<br /> <br /> Kingston 6<br /> <br /> mcphersonclaude32@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13575713/252885_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Lies are an economic plague http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Lies-are-an-economic-plague_89461 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> At the recently held forum put on by the Economic Growth Council, its chairman, Michael Lee-Chin, relayed an anecdote of Jamaica&rsquo;s lack of fortune which resembles the biblical parable of &ldquo;the talents&rdquo;, as told by Jesus.<br /> <br /> However, there are worse-case scenarios. One is the reasonable loss or spending of the money that one has been made caretaker over. The other, which is more worrisome, and that we are increasingly seeing in Jamaica, is the actual or potential loss from deception, whether self-deception or deception inflicted by or unto others, both near and far.<br /> <br /> Our nation is increasingly becoming &ldquo;infested&rdquo; with lies and liars. Unfortunately, the impact of lies on our economic standing is being ignored or underestimated. Deception is implicit in lotto scamming and uncertainty and volatility in financial investments. It is a major reason for some of our best and truth-inclined minds not to participate in our political process. It is partly why bureaucracy, which Lee-Chin cited as a growth-inhibiting factor, is so entrenched in our policies and operations.<br /> <br /> Our social and business units and partnerships, including halls of justice, intimate relationships, customer and merchant confidence, are put under heavy and costly strain because of lies. Furthermore, we have much of our people who are &ldquo;pretending&rdquo; to be parenting, to be working, to be learning at school, or to care when they just don&rsquo;t. Even having a good time has been hijacked. All this must add up to a large chunk of our gross domestic product and is partly why many of our Asian counterparts have been doing better economically than us and much of the rest of the world &mdash; they value honour, and one&rsquo;s word is integral to that honour.<br /> <br /> There is a joke of a man who had died and was so untruthful that even the devil refused him entry to hell. Although we would readily denounce the devil, we could really use some of his riches. After all, Jesus did encourage us to &ldquo;be friends with Mammon&rdquo;, but not to worship it, which perhaps, includes lying for it.<br /> <br /> None of us is perfect, and we will slip up with the truth at times, but we will be left out in the cold or scorching heat if our culture and character do not improve in this regard.<br /> <br /> Andre O Sheppy<br /> <br /> Norwood, St James<br /> <br /> astrangely@outlook.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12959789/201011_31920_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Christians praying for a world that can never be http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Christians-praying-for-a-world-that-can-never-be_89625 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Every weekend, when I am at home resting, I hear church leaders promising their flock that if they live a pious life, that is, being in total subservience to Jesus, then they can expect God to fulfil his promise to them and let them live an eternal life in the everlasting paradise to come. This paradise will be &mdash; if these<br /> <br /> Bible-thumping church leaders are to be believed &mdash; a state of affairs that will be perfect and one that will last forever. However, although I am an atheist, I do know that the<br /> <br /> Bible itself tells me that this promised paradise will not only not happen &mdash; it can&rsquo;t.<br /> <br /> For starters, Jesus himself is supposed to be the everlasting king of this everlasting future and blissful state of affairs &mdash; when he comes again. Now, according to the New Testament, Jesus was supposed to have returned to make this paradise a reality many centuries ago. He is yet to appear. What else, other than his non-appearance after over 2,000 years, will convince Christians that there is no second coming for the good Lord, remains a complete mystery to me.<br /> <br /> Anyway, assuming that Jesus will return, which I seriously doubt, could such a permanent state of affairs really exist? According to the<br /> <br /> Bible itself, and logics, not at all.<br /> <br /> Look at what the<br /> <br /> Bible itself told us: When God &mdash; assuming, of course, that he even exists &mdash; created heaven and all of the angels, he gave them two attributes that, more or less, made them like us humans &mdash; the supposed knowledge of good and evil, whatever those could have been, and free will. Of course, there really isn&rsquo;t any such thing, but let&rsquo;s say that free will really is there. What happened in that heaven?<br /> <br /> Well, as per scripture, one bright spark angel, Lucifer, began asking all sorts of questions. Specifically, he wanted to know by what right God had to be sovereign. Of course, according to the<br /> <br /> Bible, God would have none of it. And, as we all know, all hell broke loose in heaven.<br /> <br /> Failing to have his permanent paradise in heaven, on account of Lucifer&rsquo;s pushing his nose where it did not belong, we have God trying again. This time, here on Earth.<br /> <br /> According to the<br /> <br /> Bible, God created a perfect paradise on Earth with everything &mdash; and a naked couple. However, realising that free will, and knowing good and evil, whatever those are, could cause trouble as they did in heaven &mdash; God thought he was smart.<br /> <br /> He gave that naked couple free will, but not the knowledge of good and evil. God thought that the permanency of paradise on Earth was assured with this configuration. However, we humans are an interesting lot. That couple may not have known what good and evil were, but with free will they were bound to &ldquo;buck up&rdquo; on them sooner or later.<br /> <br /> Well, to cut a long story short, not knowing if Lucifer&rsquo;s advice was good or bad, but being free to take it, the couple took Lucifer&rsquo;s word for it, and as the<br /> <br /> Bible tells us: All hell broke loose on Earth, too.<br /> <br /> Now, Christians are being promised that God has figured out a way to fix all of that. But we know that can&rsquo;t be. For us to be human, we must be able to make judgements on our own. For God&rsquo;s plan, that means we humans must be able to decide what is right and wrong, on our own and be &ldquo;free&rdquo;, so to speak, to act accordingly.<br /> <br /> Christians may not like this, but the only way he can have a permanent paradise, other than vanquishing Lucifer, is to take away our humanity. The paradise that Christians are looking forward to is one in which people will be stripped of &ldquo;free will&rdquo;. In other words, the future paradise for Christians will be one where the &ldquo;beneficiaries&rdquo; will become robots &mdash; completely under God&rsquo;s control.<br /> <br /> Come to think of it, I am happy that my atheism has saved me from the fate that the future paradise has in store for faithful Christians. Give me my problems and my grave any day over what&rsquo;s in store for the true Christian. At least, I will not be an everlasting zombie.<br /> <br /> Michael A Dingwall<br /> <br /> michael_a_dingwall@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> Letters to the Editor Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:00 AM Church fi stone dog, but... http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Church-fi-stone-dog--but---_89500 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Jamaica is reputed to have more churches per square mile than any other country on Earth, and this might remain so for years to come. Every day a new church is formed and the names which they go by leave you saying: Okay, then! That&rsquo;s a new one!<br /> <br /> The sex abuse scandal that is now devilling the Jamaican Church is frightening, and one wonders, what more is the church hiding?<br /> <br /> What&rsquo;s more, there are questions about the Church&rsquo;s real impact on society. How can a society that has so many churches kill each other with such impunity?<br /> <br /> And, what of the selective morality of the Church? We march against any idea of changing the buggery law, yet the church is silent, no marches yet, concerning the wanton abuse and murder of our women and children. What makes this lack of action more frightening is the fact that our churches survive and grow because of women and children. <br /> <br /> If we look deeper we will realise that the proliferation of churches is influenced by other reasons, as for the most part it is not based on concern for the perishing and dying. Instead, it seems based on a thirst for power. There is this tendency among power-hungry Christians &mdash; the majority of which are men &mdash; to go and &lsquo;set up&rsquo; a church whenever they are not able to have their way or influence decisions in their present church family. The poor, hungry and dispossessed are not their concern; power and the ability to wield it over the vulnerable who turn to the church for help is their modus operandi. <br /> <br /> Like some other institutions, some churches exist solely to peddle in the oppression of the vulnerable and marginalised, as they seek fame, power and all the trappings that come with it. To do this they engage in the proliferation of the gospel of &lsquo;self-improvement&rsquo; and pseudo-Christian psychology. There is not a real attempt to challenge the social ills that exist in our society, they look the other way and, where and when necessary, participate to benefit their selfish agendas. <br /> <br /> I am not attempting to suggest that the Church has not had an impact on this society; indeed, this organisation has played a major role in shaping myself and others into the type of men and women that we are. I was privileged to be raised in the Baptist denomination, which has a proud history of seeking out the interest of the poor and dispossessed in our country. Some of us who have some form of success in life, especially from the lower echelons of our society, could not depend on underfunded State institutions. It was in Sunday school, vacation Bible school, or youth fellowship that we discovered our talents and learned to &lsquo;dance a yard before we go abroad&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> The Church needs to find her first love and then reaffirm the commitment to protecting and caring for the vulnerable and advancing the interest of the poor and oppressed. There is no need for more churches; we have &lsquo;more dogs than bones&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Shane Reid <br /> <br /> Hopewell, Hanover <br /> <br /> shanereid74@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13597997/254477_81329_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, February 14, 2017 12:00 AM Safeguards must accompany enhanced detention measures http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Safeguards-must-accompany-enhanced-detention-measures_89476 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) understands the need for the Government of Jamaica to take effective measures to combat the scourge of crime and violence. The Government must not simply &ldquo;do something&rdquo;, it must do the right thing.<br /> <br /> We note the recently announced concept of &lsquo;preventative detention&rsquo;, which the attorney general has publicly opined is a lawful measure. JFJ is of the view that the concept and principles behind preventative detention may not be clearly understood by the public or all police officers. While announcing it in the domestic violence context, the Government has made clear that it will generally apply to other crimes. For clarity, we ask that the Government set out in writing for the public exactly what the concept of preventative detention entails, how it is expected to work on the ground, and the legal underpinnings for the same. We also ask that any guidelines that have been issued to the police in relation to how preventative detention may be utilised to deprive individuals of their liberty be released to the public without delay. This would ensure that the public and the police are adequately advised of how it is intended that this concept of preventative detention would be implemented. <br /> <br /> We endorse the attorney general&rsquo;s reminder to the police of their awesome powers and the need to exercise such power in keeping with the law. This comes in a context in which the police already breach existing restrictions on detention, raising concerns about the safeguards that will accompany this new, enhanced measure. Presently, people are frequently detained without charge &mdash; mostly in poor communities &mdash; not told the reasons for their detention, and are detained for unlawfully excessive periods leading to serious abuse. With the roll-out of this enhanced detention measure, existing safeguards must be strengthened, not diminished, to avoid exacerbating this legacy of abuse. Without this, the well-intentioned strategies of the Government may end up producing greater harm than good, as they have in the past.<br /> <br /> In this regard, we ask the Government to institute a requirement for the issuance of written notices of detention for all police arrests and detentions. The notice would include the reason(s) for arrest/detention, and the particulars and circumstances of the detention. This would provide a record for detainees in cases of dispute and a procedural safeguard against abuse. This written record could take a similar form to the report receipts which are currently being successfully utilised by the police.<br /> <br /> JFJ has also written to the attorney general and the minister of national security requesting a meeting to discuss our ongoing concerns in relation to detention practices. The ministers would be well aware that it is the public who must pay for any misstep or unlawful detention by our own police officers.<br /> <br /> We are all afflicted by crime, so we would all welcome any measure that can lawfully bring a reduction in crime. Let us ensure that, by our crime-fighting measures, we create partners for peace. We will not create partners for peace by arbitrarily arresting people.<br /> <br /> Jamaicans for Justice<br /> <br /> 2 Fagan Avenue, Kingston<br /> <br /> communications@jamaicansforjustice.org<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13641692/filename_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Tuesday, February 14, 2017 12:00 AM Preventative detention may be a miscarriage of justice http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Preventative-detention-may-be-a-miscarriage-of-justice_89462 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Among the measures that were announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last Wednesday to deal with our crime situation, the matter of domestic and sexual abuse against our women and children took the spotlight.<br /> <br /> Imagine this: John has a mischievous ex-lover, girlfriend or wife. His partner files a false report that he abused her, because she wants to get back at him for some reason. John is then taken to the station and detained in this so-called cooling-off period and is embarrassed and inconvenienced.<br /> <br /> Knowing that some cops are not prudent and objective, how would taking away John&rsquo;s liberty before competently investigating the matter further the interests of justice? How could a cop, in this likely situation, reasonably justify John&rsquo;s detention to &lsquo;cool him off&rsquo; and to complete his investigation?<br /> <br /> The State said that the Bail Act will be utilised to detain an accused for up to 24 hours, and for possibly longer periods with the authorisation of a justice of the peace (JP), so that the police can investigate whether a crime was or is about to be committed.<br /> <br /> One&rsquo;s liberty should never be left hanging in the balance by any cop. Furthermore, if the police decide to detain on reasonable suspicion, the extension of that detention should not be left to the determination of a JP who is not adequately trained in law.<br /> <br /> The police could convince a JP with false and misleading information. The malicious or misinforming police affiant could abuse the process for motives other than to properly bring the accused to justice.<br /> <br /> How many cops will properly apply the required two-tiered (objective and subjective) test to firstly satisfy themselves that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime?<br /> <br /> An accused must be brought before the court without delay for bail to be considered. Therefore, this out-of-court mechanism of taking him before a JP to extend his detention would only aggrieve citizens and open the State to liability.<br /> <br /> There is an abundance of case law (including R v Bathgate [1944] 46 SR (NSW) 281, R v Jeffries [1946] 47 SR (NSW) 284 and Bales v Parmenter [1935] 35 SR (NSW) 182) which outrightly condemns the illegality and the unconstitutionality of the cops&rsquo; action in detaining someone for the purposes of questioning, instead of bringing him before the court for a judicial determination.<br /> <br /> In Brinegar v United States, J Rutledge said: &ldquo;In dealing with probable cause, however, as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable men, not legal technicians, act.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He went on: &ldquo;Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officers&rsquo; knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offence has been or being committed.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The need for more practical and sustainable crime-fighting solutions appears to have been lost on the Holness Administration in their recent pronouncements.<br /> <br /> In addition to aggressively enforcing the already existing laws, which is basically what is being proposed now, since the police failed to do so effectively from the start, the measures should include competent investigations coupled with effective policing.<br /> <br /> Dujon Russell<br /> <br /> dujon.russell@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13608364/Holness_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, February 14, 2017 12:00 AM Some church groups&rsquo; views on the Sexual Offences Act selfish and dangerous http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Some-church-groups--views-on-the-Sexual-Offences-Act-selfish-and-dangerous_88988 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Something absolutely important is starting to happen in this country and I am afraid that a small faction of Jamaicans and the media, by enabling them, are going to mess everything up.<br /> <br /> Finally, a joint select committee of Parliament is once again reviewing the Sexual Offences Act that has been due for review since 2014. The Act has many challenges and gaps that have been repeatedly documented and elaborated on. Here is a snapshot: the law says boys cannot be raped. The law treats vaginal rape different from other forms of sexual violence. Therefore, if a man forcibly rapes a young girl in the mouth, the law says it is not rape. The law also says that if an uncle rapes his nephew, it is not incest. It is only deemed incest if the aunt does it.<br /> <br /> These gender-specific and orifice-specific laws need to be improved. All children deserve equal protection. This is not controversial, it&rsquo;s common sense!<br /> <br /> In the context of rampant child sexual abuse, we need laws that ensure that no child is treated as less than, and that punishment for sexual violence against children does not depend on the gender of the child or the rapist.<br /> <br /> I fear a small group of Jamaicans &mdash; calling themselves church groups, even though they do not represent the large mass of Christian and churchgoing Jamaicans &mdash; who want the law to stay as it is because of their own agenda. These &ldquo;church groups&rdquo; will do almost anything to achieve their goals, even sacrifice our children&rsquo;s legal protections. They claim they want a healthy society but do not want laws that ensure the sexual health and innocence of all children are equally protected.<br /> <br /> Their views on the Sexual Offences Act are selfish and dangerous. My other fear is that the media, because of economic reasons, will give these groups a platform to mislead and misrepresent facts. The media will turn the business of protecting our children into &ldquo;a row between the church and civil society&rdquo;. This is equally dangerous. While the media flourish on confrontations and controversies, the children will suffer when the laws do not equally protect them. The media have a responsibility beyond grand headlines to educate the Jamaican public and provide them with sufficient detail about the state of our laws. Their duty is paramount within our democratic society and they do a disservice to the Jamaican people when they frame the conversation around controversy and disagreement.<br /> <br /> We need to move towards equal protection of our children and should not let extremists hijack the process. In the end, it is our children who will suffer.<br /> <br /> Glenroy Murray<br /> <br /> glenroy.am.murray@gmail.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13639058/258025_84750_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 13, 2017 12:00 AM #WomenInScience http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/-WomenInScience_89331 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> On February 11, 2017, the global community paused to commemorate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates that only 28 per cent of researchers are females. Many jurisdictions, in an attempt to increase the participation of women and girls in the fields of science, have been placing more emphasis and resources on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Jamaica&rsquo;s new National Standard Curriculum is pivotal in addressing the disconnect between the participation of both sexes regarding equal access to education. <br /> <br /> It bears thought that governments all across the globe need to be more responsive to the needs of women and girls in achieving gender equality. Sadly, the breaking of the class ceiling is still a dream for many women and girls, particularly in some societies where patriarchal structures and toxic cultures are more entrenched both in the public and private spheres. These factors serve as a barrier to women&rsquo;s full and equal participation in to education and training. <br /> <br /> In order for any society to advance and progress the rights of women and girls must be protected and expanded. The 21st century female must be not be hindered by intersectional factors, such as income, geography, age, race.<br /> <br /> It is estimated that 2.5 million new engineers and technicians will be required in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of science and technology; regrettably, these jobs will more than likely be filled by men if women are not encouraged to pursue these career paths. <br /> <br /> Interestingly, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5 speaks to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to which more societies clearly need to pay greater attention. <br /> <br /> A gradual change and shift over the years in how women and girls view and access education, particularly higher education, manifests itself especially at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, where females, inclusive of those from the Faculty of Medical Sciences, account for the majority of graduating students.<br /> <br /> The time has come for all societies to close the gender divide which is a critical pillar for achieving sustainable development. In the words of Beth Simone Noveck, &ldquo;Starting early and getting girls on computers, tinkering and playing with technology, games and new tools is extremely important for bridging the gender divide that exists now in computer science and technology.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Wayne Campbell<br /> <br /> waykam@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> @WayneCamo<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13639059/258042_84749_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 13, 2017 12:00 AM How long before we come together about crime? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/How-long-before-we-come-together-about-crime_89339 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I have to confess that I have not read or studied the latest crime plan espoused by the Government last week. However, like all Jamaicans, I hope it is going to make a significant difference in trying to tame this seemingly unstoppable monster.<br /> <br /> But without even reading what has been published, there was again one element that was, in my opinion, conspicuously missing &mdash; a sense of national unity by both the Government and the Opposition.<br /> <br /> Looking back from the mid-to-late 1960s, when gun violence began to rear its ugly head, we have seen numerous crime plans rolled out by the incumbent Government, and right after it appears that the Opposition had just been waiting in ambush to punch holes in whatever was announced.<br /> <br /> Throughout the life of every government, the Opposition spokesperson on crime has always had better ideas &mdash; or so they always claim. So, since both claim to have an interest in drastically reducing crime in this country why don&rsquo;t they put away their orange and green blinkers and sit down together and agree on a plan that both agree will work, instead of just sniping away at each other while crime remains rampant and the criminals laugh in our faces?<br /> <br /> Most politically partisan readers have probably stopped reading this letter by now, but do the Government and the Opposition know the message they would send to the rest of us if it was announced that both sides had seriously sat and considered and agreed on what was to be announced?<br /> <br /> And how much more would that message have been underscored if the leader of the Opposition and the spokesperson on crime were prominently visible at last week&rsquo;s press conference?<br /> <br /> Are we really serious when we talk about crime as a national issue, or are we all just going to be swept away in the criminal tide while we continue to try and score political points?<br /> <br /> Stephen Harrison<br /> <br /> St Mary<br /> <br /> stepharrison28@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10619615/Crime-2_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 13, 2017 12:00 AM Fix police force before granting it more power http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Fix-police-force-before-granting-it-more-power_89330 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The Government recently indicated its intention to introduce preventative detention as one of its measures in its crime plan. The Opposition, on the other hand, is suggesting that the regulations in respect of the DNA Act be the focus of the Government.<br /> <br /> I am worried that our police force is nowhere near where it ought to be in terms of integrity and public trust when it comes to implementing such pieces of legislation.<br /> <br /> I have been and remain particularly concerned about the DNA database that has to be maintained. Who will be in charge of it, and what DNA will find its way into the DNA database? Will the DNA to be stored be only that which has been obtained with the full knowledge and consent of the relevant person involved? Will DNA be extracted from people before they are arrested and just when they fall under suspicion? In other words, will DNA be taken from those who are presumed to be innocent and not yet convicted of a crime? In addition, when does one&rsquo;s DNA finds its way into the DNA database, and what provisions will be in place to have it expunged?<br /> <br /> It is very important that we as Jamaicans understand that DNA samples represent an assault on privacy, with deeply personal information being held by others that may be used without our knowledge or consent. It is also important that we, and especially our legislators, understand that there are inherent dangers in granting tools (preventative detention and DNA legislation) to fight crime to a police force perceived to be corrupt, and that the inappropriate or wrongful use of these tools could in time creep into other areas in ways that impinge on personal liberties.<br /> <br /> Let us also be careful that we aren&rsquo;t just introducing legislation as some sort of &lsquo; feel-good measure&rsquo; to say that we are doing something, but with the more than likely outcome that such legislation will either not be enforced or be abused.<br /> <br /> Why don&rsquo;t we fix our police force first and then introduce legislation after?<br /> <br /> Colonel Allan Douglas<br /> <br /> Kingston 10<br /> <br /> alldouglas@aol.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13638619/clean-sweep_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, February 13, 2017 12:00 AM