MPs argue over invitees to discuss proposed Portmore parish status

MPs argue over invitees to discuss proposed Portmore parish status

Friday, January 15, 2021

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GOVERNMENT and Opposition members of the special select committee which is considering a proposal for Portmore to become the country's 15th parish, yesterday haggled over whether all the municipality's stakeholder groups should be specially invited to weigh in on the matter.

Opposition Senator Floyd Morris said given the nature of the issue all groups should be invited individually. “I believe a special effort has to be made to ensure that the residents of Portmore are informed of the measure. Just as how we make moves in elections to campaign and get their support, I think the obligation is on us as parliamentarians to get the information to the residents, to let them understand that this process is in place. I think every bus stop in Portmore should have a poster or a flyer to indicate that this committee is meeting and that we are taking submissions from the residents from Portmore,” said Morris.

Member of Parliament (MP) for St Catherine South West Everald Warmington countered that the proceedings were open to all, that individual invitations were therefore unnecessary. “I don't see why we need to invite any particular group from Portmore. If they so wish they [can] advise us that they want to make submissions. Once you're a Jamaican and you want to participate, you come.”

The discussions emerged from a private members motion tabled by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie to set up the committee. The Government had assured that there would be wide stakeholder consultation in order for any decision to be made.

MP for St Catherine South Fitz Jackson pointed out that one of the practices of Parliament is that when matters that affect particular constituents come before it, extra effort is made to ensure the widest stakeholder participation. “Yes, we are open to the public, but in this instance we are dealing with a matter for a specific set of residents of Jamaica. There are established stakeholder groups in the area to be affected and who have been directly involved in the affairs of that area for many years, and it is...that the Parliament is now deciding to deal with a matter and ignores them,” he said.

Jackson said it was “grossly unfair” for civic groups and non-governmental organisations that have been deeply involved in the affairs of the municipality not to be specially invited, contrary to the suggestion by Warmington that the committee is open to all and there is no need for special invitations.

Committee chairman and MP for St Catherine South Central, Dr Andrew Wheatley, meanwhile, stressed that the call for submissions was for government entities at this time, and that all political representatives in Portmore were encouraged to have the relevant groups contribute to the talks.

Portmore received municipality status in 2003 under the Portia Simpson Miller Administration by way of a repeal of Section 3 of the Municipalities Act. Thirteen years later, the town was deemed a city municipality under the Local Governance Act of 2016, then in 2018 renamed the Portmore City Municipality under a local governance order.

According to the motion brought by Minister McKenzie, the demographics of the municipality now warrant parish status so that the focus could be on managing the town with a push towards sustainable development. The municipality's potential to generate revenue is also being touted as a benefit of parish status.

— Alphea Saunders


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