Opposition calls for probe into leasing of Holland sugar lands to minister's partner

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Opposition calls for probe into leasing of Holland sugar lands to minister's partner

Monday, July 13, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— Opposition spokesman on agriculture and rural development, Victor Wright, has called on the Integrity Commission to investigate the leasing of 1,400 acres of the Holland Sugar Lands to Holland Producers Limited.

In a statement today, Wright said the allocation was done through what he called a “non-transparent deal between the Ministry of Agriculture and connected parties”.

He referenced news reports that indicate that the land allocation was done through an unsolicited proposal with no tender or financial proposal from the company.

He noted, too, that one of the directors of the company is the live-in partner of portfolio minister JC Hutchinson.

According to Wright, the latter fact cannot be ignored because “the land is owned by the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ), which is an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) and this falls directly under Hutchinson's purview.”

“What is worse is that the Holland Producers' director is also chairman of the RADA St Elizabeth Board of Directors and a member of the RADA national board and would, therefore, be aware of insider information on the land availability and the ministry's plans. Consequently, the land arrangement puts Holland Producers at a disproportionate advantage over other interests, and this cannot be allowed to stand,” Wright said.

He said the process of arriving at the lease arrangement is troubling as it “closely resembles the recent Holywell land scandal, where protected lands were to be leased to the portfolio minister of land.”

Wright said the Holland land lease arrangement should immediately be halted, and an examination of the contractual agreement be carried out by the Integrity Commission.

He charged that the People's National Party was in possession of information which indicates that current employees of RADA are also directors of Holland Producers, and that the government farm store located on the Holland property is also being managed by individuals connected to the minister.

“Even more disturbing is a claim by SCJ Chairman, M Joseph Shoucair that Holland Producers Limited was recommended for the lease by connected parties in the Ministry of Agriculture,” Wright said.

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