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  • Desperate to find a home - Woman, child evicted after being taken off witness protection program

    Image result for buying a house in jamaica

    A woman who says she witnessed the murder of her babyfather almost a decade ago alleges that she and her 13-year-old daughter were taken off the witness protection programme after the case she testified in concluded.

    Jane Brown* said that after witnessing the murder of her daughter's father in 2008 in May Pen, Clarendon, she went into hiding for two years before coming forward to testify against a suspect.

    "I gave evidence and he was sentenced. My daughter and I were placed on the programme. When we were placed on the programme, they told us that they would ensure that we were safe, and when the matter was finished, they would do a risk assessment and reintegrate us back into society," she explained.

    During the trial, Brown said that she and her daughter lived in a house that was rented under the witness protection programme until this year.

    "In December, 2016, my case manager called me and said to me that my matter before the court is finished. She said I needed to find somewhere to rent that is cheaper because they are going to stop paying the rent," she told THE WEEKEND STAR.




    However, Brown said that she enquired about assistance and was told that if she could find a house to lease for 10 to 15 years, they would assist her.

    After finding a house to lease, she said her plea for help was rejected.

    However, with her daughter attending high school developing a malignant cyst in her breast and being laid off from her work, Brown explained that she found it difficult to come up with the rent money.

    And after travelling to the United States earlier this year to have two surgeries done, with the help of persons at a church she attends, she returned to Jamaica and was evicted.

    "When I came back, no rent had been paid, no utility bills. The landlord sent me a voice note that I need to get my things out of his house, and, if not, he is going to throw me out. I have been thrown out since September. Two persons from church put up my furniture, and a lady gave me a baby to look after, so when I am there with the child, my daughter can sleep there with me, but when I am not there, we have to find somewhere else to sleep," she said.

    Depressed by her living arrangements and the risks that her daughter might be exposed to, she said that she still wants somewhere to live.

    "Mi nuh want them fi sexually assault mi child because of the decision wah mi mek," she said.

    Brown noted that she managed to get in contact with her parents, who were also forced to flee their home following the murder in 2008. They agreed to keep her daughter but she would have to change school. But that possibility has presented another hurdle, as she said that purchasing new uniforms would be difficult because she has no money.

    THE WEEKEND STAR reached out to the Ministry of National Security, under whose purview the witness protect programme falls, but up to press time there was no response to our email.

    * Name changed

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  • Cops clamp down on major child prostitution ring in St Ann


    Members of the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime (CTOC) say they have clamped down on a major prostitution ring in Runaway Bay, St Ann.

    Police say during a series of operation to target persons involved in the human trafficking trade they discovered the underground scheme that involves some residents in the Salem area of Runaway Bay turning their houses into makeshift motels and renting them to prostitutes, some of them underage girls between 14 and 15-years-old, to perform sexual favors to customers.

    Police told Loop News that between late Friday and early Saturday a team of officers from CTOC carried out a raid in the mentioned area where they arrested three women involved in the illegal underground operation.

    “Police acting on information went to sections of the parish and during a raid, the women, who are homeowners were arrested,” Assistant Superintendent, Victor Barrett told Loop News

    Barrett said a further investigation into the illegal operation revealed that the homeowners would rent rooms in their houses, or the small shacks built at the front of their premises, for a fee of $300 for 15 minutes to allow customers and the prostitutes to engage in their sexual activities.

    “We have found that this underground operation is a multimillion-dollar scheme that sometimes targets children and is also used to fund the operation of criminal gangs,” said one police source.

    CTOC members say based on the information more persons could be arrested in coming days as they intensify their operation to clamp down on individuals involved in the human trafficking trade.


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  • High sorrel prices for Christmas, and very little gungo ‘till January

    File photo of a glass of sorrel drink.

    Jamaicans should prepare for higher than usual prices for sorrel, from which the most popular Christmas drink is brewed, due to low production of the plant this year.

    One farmer, Denton Alvaranga, President of the Clarendon Association of Jamaica Agriculture Society (JAS) Branches, explained that cultivation of the plant over a period of months was affected by excessive rainfall, resulting in a general inability to properly prepare for ideal production of the crop.

    “I have been out there and I have seen the fields that normally would have been in sorrel, have none,” Alvarnaga said, adding that the amounts reaped so far have amounted to roughly 25-30 per cent of the normal production levels.

    Moreover, the high cost of production of the plant has been quite challenging, said the farmer.

    “It takes roughly $40 to produce a pound of sorrel, and when the farmer reaps it and is to sell, the price he gets for it is very inconsistent, sometime $50 or $60,” Alvaranga indicated at a meeting at the JAS head office in downtown Kingston on Wednesday. The meeting involved representatives of the local farming community raising their concerns about the sector to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    “Right now I’m getting $100 per pound on my farm, from that I pay $30 to the reapers,” Alvaranga said.

    He is projecting that the price for the Christmas staple could range between $150 to $200 per pound at the farm gate level.

    “And then when those distributors are to sell to consumers, they will add mark-up of another $50 per pound, totalling $250 per pound,” Alvaranga anticipated, adding that parishes such as  Manchester, St Elizabeth, Hanover, St Thomas and St Catherine are expected to produce a fair amount of the commodity.

    Sorrel production is said to have also been negatively impacted by the root rot disease, which sees the roots of both indoor and outdoor plants rotting as a result of over watering and poor drainage.

    “So because we had the heavy rainfall, the disease will set in. Once the water cannot drain freely from the root of the plant, the chances of the disease are very high,” Alvaranga explained.

    And another blow for the lovers of the Christmas speciality items, a similar case of excessive rainfall stifling production obtains for gungo peas.

    “Those plants need a dry spell, and when they should have been flowering, we had continuous rainfall, so the plants kept on growing, and now it’s December (when) gungo would be out there, but there is very little,” he said.

    Image result for gungo peas rice

    The trees are said to be all tall and full of leaves, but with very little flowering and very little pea pods.

    So look out for most of the gungo peas late in January and February, the farmer said.

    Outside of the Christmas period, there is little demand for fresh sorrel, hence the need to ramp up marketing for the commodity in other months of the year, he reasoned.

    “If were to have Jamaicans purchase throughout the year it would be joy,” he said.

    He also said sorrel isn’t hard to produce, with certain parishes such as Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth, Hanover, St Thomas and St Catherine having the best conditions to produce the crop.

    He said more farmers need to adjust to producing dried sorrel in a bid to capitalise on the demand from the processing industry, adding that processors such as Virginia Deer, Tru-Juice and Jamaican Teas have an interest in the dried plant.

    “Sorrel can be dried, but it’s a very tedious process, and it’s about eight to 10 pounds of fresh sorrel that gives a pound of dried sorrel, and that’s not our culture. Our culture is to reap it fresh and utilise it,” he said.

    “So the answer I see with sorrel has to be with processing. I am envisioning a time when, just as how a customer would go and purchase a bottle of soft drink, they would want to purchase a bottle of sorrel,” he said. 




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  • Female cop under fire for 'ordering breastfeeding mom out of station'

    Stock image of a mother breastfeeding her baby.

    Stock image of a mother breastfeeding her baby.

    Within only days, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has again been placed under the microscope for the actions of one of its members, this time for a recent development at the Half-Way Tree Police Station in St Andrew, where a mother was reportedly ordered out of the station by a policewoman because she attempted to breastfeed her young baby while at the facility.

    Only days ago, the Police High Command launched an investigation into the harsh words that were used by a traffic cop to a motorist who was found with a driver’s licence, but clearly could not read. The cop got enraged by the fact that the motorist could not spell the word ‘IT’.

    Reports from an alleged eyewitness, who highlighted the matter of the breastfeeding mother on her Twitter account, indicated that the mother went to the station and was waiting to report a matter, when the child started to cry for attention.

    That was when the mother attempted to breastfeed the child.

    What took place thereafter has left persons asking questions about the customer service stance from the police force which has the words ‘to serve, protect and reassure’ in its motto.

    “Just saw a policewoman tell a mother to get out of the guardroom at the HWT Police Station because #breastfeeding her child was not permitted in that public space!” the twitter user exclaimed.

    The woman who highlighted the case said when she saw what was happening to the mother and child, she was so moved that she offered the use of her car in the station’s parking lot for the mother to breastfeed the baby in some comfort and dignity.

    “So I told the lady to feed her starving baby in my car… my heart hurts,” elaborated the lady who came to the rescue from what persons are labelling as a grossly ‘unmotherly act’ by the female cop.

    “When I saw what took place, it really left me concerned,” added the social media user.

    The matter has triggered widespread condemnation from social media users in general, and has even attracted the attention of the top cop, Commissioner George Quallo, who advised of an ongoing investigation of the matter via his Twitter page.

    “It is a matter that is being investigated,” the commissioner said.

    However, the commissioner’s statement has not been very effective in quelling the anger of some members of the public who used the Twitter platform twitter vent their feeling on the matter.

    “That was very uncaring on the part of the police,” said one user, who noted that the situation was made worse by the fact that it was done by a woman, who happened to be a member of the JCF.



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  • Landlady bites off man's finger over rent



    A landlord who bit off a man's index finger in row over rent was denied bail when she appeared in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court yesterday.

    Shamella Powell was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm.

    Allegations are that on October 30, Powell used a machete to beat her tenant in the head after he refused to pay his rent. It is reported that she was taken to the police station where she was charged and granted station bail.

    Moments after she was granted bail, it is alleged that Powell attacked a man who was assisting her tenant to move his belongings from the premises. It is reported that she bit off the man's left index finger in the second attack.




    However, Powell's lawyer, Ian Davis, said that his client was acting in self-defence as she was attacked by the tenant and the man who lost his index finger during the ordeal.

    "Your Honour, for some reason the police did not take a statement from her," Davis said.

    Showing the court a picture bearing an image of Powell with a bruised face, Davis said that the man who lost his index finger bit Powell in the face.

    The complainant admitted to the accusation, saying that he did it while Powell was sinking her teeth in his finger.

    Presiding Judge Judith Pusey jokingly asked if it was a 'biting contest'.

    In his bail application, Davis said that his client has four kids, the youngest being four years old, and she has no one to attend to them. He said that his client has been in custody since the beginning of November.

    Pusey denied the bail application on the basis that Powell attacked a person while she was on bail.

    She is to return to court on December 15.

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