Not vote-buying, McKenzie says as he releases funds for St Mary

BY RENAE DIXON
Observer staff reporter
dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 13, 2017

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PORT MARIA, St Mary — Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie was yesterday hesitant to release funds to councillors in the St Mary Municipal Corporation for drain cleaning, advising them that he did not want to be accused of vote-buying.

The minister, who noted that feeling intimidated about doing his work because of an upcoming by-election was “unacceptable”, went as far as to ask the councillors if they thought their monthly allocations should be withheld until after the October 30 by-elections.

The councillors did not want the funds withheld.

The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) this week accused the governing Jamaica Labour Party of raiding the Tourism Enhancement Fund's coffers of $29.75 million to finance the removal of “bulky waste” and the removal of illegal dump sites in St Mary South Eastern and other north-eastern constituencies, in a bid to influence the outcome of the upcoming by-election.

In fact, the Opposition has spent the last two weeks warning about the use of State funds to “buy votes” in the by-election.

Yesterday, McKenzie said his meeting with the St Mary Municipal Corporation was scheduled long before there was knowledge that a by-election would take place in the parish.

“I don't want to be caught up in any argument about vote-buying because people will make their decision based on performance, based on their conscience,” the minister said at the meeting.

He then told the councillors that, starting next week, the $500,000 remaining from the $1 million that was allocated to the parish for drain cleaning will be released. He promised, too, that the municipal corporation would get its monthly parochial revenue and that councillors will also receive their first $200,000 allocation for social housing in the parish.

The local government minister visited the St Mary Municipal Corporation yesterday to hand over tablets to the councillors. He also handed over tablets, two desktop computers and a multi-functional printer to the St Mary Poor Relief Department.

McKenzie said poor relief officers have been working with pen and paper although technology has become available to help in their duties. Yesterday, he committed to providing all poor relief officers across the country with tablets.

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