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Holness opposed to Vin Lawrence's appointment

Friday, May 09, 2014    

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DR Vin Lawrence's appointment as head of an enterprise team to oversee the Government's 391-megawatt project drew further criticism from the parliamentary Opposition yesterday with Andrew Holness voicing his objection.

"We contemplated the need for an independent and unconnected body to administer, if not advise. [But] we are not certain whether or not Mr Lawrence represents that person," Holness, the opposition leader, told journalists during a tour of the Riverton City dump in Kingston.

According to the opposition leader, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was looking at records to see whether or not Dr Lawrence had any association with any entity involved in the process to set up the energy plant.

"So far we know that Mr Lawrence was involved in one of the energy players in the early days in the divestment of JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company)", Holness said.

Holness' comments came a day after his spokesman on industry, investment, commerce, mining, and energy Karl Samuda said that the Opposition did not support Lawrence's appointment.

"We do not support the appointment of Dr Vin Lawrence, simply because of the scathing report from the Office of the Contractor General on his performance in the Sandals Whitehouse hotel debacle," Samuda said Wednesday.

Samuda said taxpayers lost US$43 million in cost overruns on the hotel while Lawrence was chairman of the Urban Development Corporation, which was responsible for building the hotel.

Lawrence's appointment was announced Tuesday by embattled energy minister Phillip Paulwell, who told Parliament that he would no longer have responsibility for the controversial project.

The project was taken from Paulwell after his handling of the bid and licensing phases of the power plant generated calls for his resignation and for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to take control of the project.

Yesterday, Holness said that Paulwell should be fired following the controversy around the energy plant.

He labelled Paulwell's actions on the project as irresponsible and levelled criticism at Prime Minister Simpson Miller, accusing her of not acting decisively enough by reining in Paulwell.

"Youthful exuberance is not an excuse for Mr Paulwell," Holness said. "A minister does not have the luxury to be led by his emotions. A minister has to pay attention to the rules, he cannot act in a cavalier manner. The minister must exercise responsibility."

"What I see is a lack of responsibility and it is being encouraged by the way the prime minister administers her Cabinet," said Holness, who reiterated that had he been prime minister Paulwell would have been sacked.

During the tour, Holness said there was also need for Government to speed up the process to privatise the dump as he was not pleased with the current level of management at the facility following several fires there over the past few weeks.

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