THIS WEEK’S TOP NEWS STORIES
DIGITAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE INFRASTRUCTURE NEARS COMPLETION
The infrastructure that will allow for the production of digital birth certificates for Jamaican residents is 90-percent completed, according to Warren Vernon, program director for the National Identification System (NIDS). He announced that the National Public Key Infrastructure (NPKI) project is scheduled for completion in March of 2021. Vernon made his remarks in response to questions from Julian Robinson, a member of the Joint Selection Committee of Parliament on NIDS legislation. The project is designed to make Jamaica “more digital” and facilitate the ubiquitous use of information communications technology (ICT) at home, work, school, and recreation.
JURY TRIALS TO RESUME IN FEBRUARY 2021 WITH PHASED ROLL-OUT
Jury trials are set to begin again in February of 2021 in the Home Circuit Court and in some rural courts. Other than cases where the death penalty is involved, jury trials will go on in courts that can accommodate jurors with sufficient space for physical distancing mandated by COVID-19 rules. Trials by jury were stopped in March of 2020 with the confirmation of Jamaica’s first case of the coronavirus. Jury trials will begin in Kingston, St. Catherine, Westmoreland, Portland, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, St. Elizabeth, and St. Mary.
THIS WEEK’S TOP CARIBBEAN NEWS
HAITI TO IMPLEMENT MAJOR PROGRAM TO PROVIDE MORE BROADBAND ACCESS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The Haitian government has launched a digital program designed to provide broadband access to 2.7 million people throughout the country over the next five years. The program will provide Haitians with lower-cost and faster access to the internet with the help of a grant from the World Bank totaling US$60 million, which will be used to install fiber optic cables. Under the program, some 1,300 public sector institutions will get access to high-speed internet service. The World Bank noted that the project will support natural disaster programs by providing communications systems, databases, and public services, as well as aid residents with easier internet navigation.
THIS WEEK’S TOP JAMAICAN DIASPORA NEWS
DIASPORA LEADERS IN UNITED STATES SHOCKED AT STORMING OF CAPITOL IN D.C.
Several Jamaican leaders in the diaspora expressed shock and alarm at watching the violent storming of the United States Capitol building in Washington DC by insurrectionist supports of Donald Trump who tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden as the next President of the US. Dr. Rupert Francis, head of the Diaspora Crime and Prevention Task Force, called for individuals participating in the riots to be arrested and held accountable. He added that what happened at the Capitol rendered the US unable to talk to the world about democracy. New York State Senator Leroy Comie, who is from Jamaica, said what happened was the responsibility of Trump as he refuses to accept his loss to Biden in the presidential election. Jamaican Michael King, a New York Police Inspector in charge of the NYPD Special Victims Crime Unit, called the situation “un-American,” “terrible” and “discouraging.” Congresswoman Yvette Clarke called it an attempted coup and an attack by “an insurgent group of domestic terrorists.” She added that Trump encouraged the “abhorrent behavior” and called for his immediate resignation.
THIS WEEK’S TOP BUSINESS NEWS
CARIBBEAN TRAVEL MAGNATE “BUTCH” STEWART DIES AT AGE 79
Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who was born in Kingston on July 6, 1941, and who became the billionaire travel magnate who founded the Sandals resort, died in Miami, Florida, on January 4, 2021, of unspecified causes. Stewart, considered a “White Jamaican with European roots” was native-born and never lost his Caribbean accent. He made his first fortune selling air-conditioning units, refrigerators, and freezers in Jamaica, and then he founded the Sandals and Beaches resorts, which are now found throughout the Caribbean region. These resorts were among the first in the area to provide “all-inclusive” vacations. He bought Air Jamaica, the country’s national airline in 1994 and expanded its routes to the United States and United Kingdom. He pulled out of the airline in 2004. He was always supportive of Jamaica and helped financially during difficult economic times, providing funds in the 1970s and 1980s so tourist hotels could be built and in 1992 when the nation’s economy faced threats from currency speculators. He was well known and well liked throughout Jamaica and was probably the most recognized person in Jamaica, second only to legendary Olympian Usain Bolt.
THIS WEEK’S TOP ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
283RD ANNUAL ACCOMPONG MAROON FESTIVAL CELEBRATED VIRTUALLY
The Accompong Maroons in St. Elizabeth celebrated the signing of the Maroon Treaty and the birth Cudjoe virtually for the first time in their 283-year history. The annual celebration was limited to Maroon residents and a few guests who were allowed to be physically present at the event on January 6, 2021. The theme was “Celebrating the Power of Our Heritage,” and featured local Maroons, many in masks, performing a musical march to the local Kindah Tree where the Treaty was signed in 1738. They then celebrated with a traditional meal of roast pork and yam, after which they marched to the Cudjoe Monument. Residents received messages via Zoon from Jamaican government officials and leaders of other Maroon communities, as well as a Coaster bus that had been gifted to them by Minister of Culture Olivia Grange. Colonel Ferron Williams, leader of the Accompong Maroons, described his people as “determined freedom fighters, who never gave up. He added that Maroon children are taught their history from the age of three, and if you ask who the Maroons are, “they will tell you that we are the first freedom fighters in the Western Hemisphere.”
THIS WEEK’S TOP SPORTS NEWS
JAMAICAN SASHOY BENBOW HOPES FOR VICTORIES IN DISCUS, SHOT-PUT EVENTS
Sashoy Benbow, a former student at Queen’s School and Excelsior High School, is hoping to prove her skills in both the discus and shot put at East Carolina University in the United States, which she will attend on a scholarship from the school. The opportunity to make good in these events is especially valued by Benbow because of the setbacks she has experienced on her athletics career. In 2019 at the Inter-secondary School Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, also known as Champs. An illness affected her shot-put performance at the competition and missed out on the finals. At age 20, she was preparing to compete in the shot put for the University of the West Indies, her first intercollegiate championships, when the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now she is back in training under coach Julian Robinson, who has added the discus to Benbow’s events. She was surprised to receive the scholarship to East Carolina and hopes to represent Jamaica well in both the events and be an inspiration to other young people in her country.