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PNP under fire - JLP insists arrested councillors resign

... calls on PM to act

BY MARK CUMMINGS & HORACE HINES

Friday, July 20, 2012    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Pressure mounted yesterday on the two People's National Party (PNP) councillors arrested by the Lottery Scam Task Force to resign, with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leading the charge and calling for campaign financing legislation.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also pressed Prime Minister and PNP President Portia Simpson Miller to take charge of the embarrassing situation and criticised her response so far as insufficient.

"It is not sufficient for the prime minister to say 'I don't know'. 'I don't know' is becoming her tag line and I think Jamaica is growing very weary of a prime minister that knows nothing that is happening under her watch," Holness said after a party meeting in Hanover.

"I think that this matter is of such serious nature that the prime minister herself should act," he added. "I believe that the prime minister should intervene and have words with those councillors and require them to do the right thing to spare the political process."

The two councillors — Michael Troupe, the deputy mayor of Montego Bay; and Sylvan Reid, who represents the Salt Spring Division — were among five persons taken into custody by the police on Wednesday in connection with the lottery scam.

Troupe, 56, has been the PNP councillor for the Granville Division since 1998, while Reid was elected in the March 2012 local government elections.

The police said they seized a large sum of cash and motor vehicles in the pre-dawn raids at the homes of both politicians in St James.

Yesterday, head of the Lottery Scam Task Force, Superintendent Leon Clunis, said the five persons — among them, two of Troupe's sons — were being questioned.

Holness also said that Troupe and Reid should resign as the allegations against them have influenced negative public perception of the political process.

"I think the councillors should step down. The standard clearly is that they have to go through due process, but I believe that the accusations made are of such serious consequences that they should spare the entire political process. Because I think that Jamaica is looking on the entire political process and crying shame," Holness told journalists outside his party meeting at Sandy Bay Primary and Junior High School.

"I think that the country is now at a point where we must, with urgency, implement two pieces of legislation which we have been discussing for years, those being the campaign financing legislation and the regulations for the registration of political parties," Holness stated.

"It is good that the police would have acted in the manner that they have acted and made the arrests, but there is a broader picture that the entire Jamaica must look at and it is the infiltration of political parties with elements that are less than worthy of having political recognition," he added.

The opposition leader argued that coming at a time when the spotlight is on the nation's 50th anniversary celebrations, the arrests of the two PNP councillors will serve to damage the country's image abroad.

"The Jamaica Labour Party is very concerned, first of all about the embarrassment that is being created in the international press. It will certainly do significant damage to Jamaica during the 50th-year celebration when Jamaica's profile will be high internationally, only to have this high now in the international press," Holness said.

His call for the councillors to resign was echoed by veteran JLP politician Dr Horace Chang.

"The incident is unfortunate and it's a sad day for Montego Bay, and I believe that the deputy mayor and the councillor should demit office and clear their names," said Dr Chang, the member of parliament for North West St James.

The St James Chapter of JLP affiliate Generation 2000 said the development has delivered a severe blow to the image of the tourist capital of Jamaica and has brought into sharp focus the issue of campaign financing.

Yesterday, as well, the Montego Bay business community described the arrests of the two councillors as "unfortunate" but said it was "comforting to know that politicians are not above the law".

Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Davon Crump argued that the lottery scam has negatively impacted the image of the resort city.

"When people hear about the lotto scam in Montego Bay, it doesn't paint a very good picture and it is bad for investment, and so we frown upon it," he said.

Also commenting on the development was the group Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI).

"CAPI notes that while no charges have been proffered and due process must take its course, it is however of the view that the circumstances warrant the immediate resignation of both councillors from their respective elected offices," said Hugh Fagan, the group's convenor.

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