CABINET minister with responsibility for information, Senator Sandrea Falconer, yesterday commended the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) for the job it did in restoring power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The minister’s commendation to the light and power company was, however, in a clear contradiction to her colleague minister Phillip Paulwell, who accused the power company of being tardy in its response in restoring power after the hurricane. Paulwell, on Tuesday, announced his intention to order an independent probe into how the JPS handled recovery activities following the passage of Sandy, which hit Jamaica as a category one storm. Damage has so far been put at $5 billion, while at least two deaths have been reported locally.
About 70 per cent of the country was left without power following the passage of Sandy last Wednesday. Since then, the light and power company said although 36,000 persons were still without electricity, it has since restored power to more than 90 per cent of customers.
Falconer said yesterday that Jamaicans should not complain about the level of work the JPS has done. “When we look at some of the areas they had to go into and seven days after significant damage we have about 90 per cent of the country back with electricity we have to give them some commendation,” Falconer told journalists at yesterday’s Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.
When asked if her view was not contradictory to the views of her fellow Cabinet minister, Falconer said Paulwell’s concern was with the fact that the country was being told there was a 90 per cent restoration while there was still a significant number of persons who had not received power at that time.
Falconer cited examples in the Unites States where several north eastern states affected by Hurricane Sandy, which left millions of people in the dark, were told that they may not receive power until another 10 days’ time.
She also pointed to a freak storm earlier this year in the US where persons were without power for several days. “I know that people are impatient; I, too, was impatient before I got back my electricity... but I would rather them not give me electricity quickly but when they do it is safe,” she said, reiterating that JPS crews have done a great job.
The minister, in the meantime, said while there was always room for improvement, the expectations must be realistic. “We can always improve when we do things because there is always room for improvement, but we have to be careful we don’t set the standards too high that every time we thrash our public servants when they are going beyond the call of duty,” she said.
Paulwell’s concern was centred on the JPS’ failure to mobilise its response team earlier. As such, he said, a probe was necessary to determine areas in which the company could improve in the event of another disaster.
JPS CEO Kelly Tomlin has rejected the assertion that the company was not adequately prepared, even as she conceded that it erred in its announcements regarding the restoration timeline.