Opposition still unhappy with PM's response to Holywell issue

Opposition still unhappy with PM's response to Holywell issue

Senior staff reporter

Monday, June 29, 2020

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LEADER of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips said yesterday that the People's National Party (PNP) of which he is president, is not satisfied with the Government's response to the issue involving the bid to lease land close to the Holywell Park in St Andrew to Cabinet minister Daryl Vaz.

Dr Phillips, who was addressing councillors and caretakers who are aspiring to fill the 228 local government divisions up for grabs in an election expected by the end of November, said that he could only describe as contempt for the people and their concerns the prime minister's response to the issue.

“With the greatest of respect to the prime minister, and to everyone else, the change in portfolio responsibilities cannot be perceived as a sanction. Prime ministers change ministers' portfolio responsibilities all the while. It is not a penalty for anything,” Dr Phillips commented as he spoke to the meeting of the party's Regions Two and Region Three candidates at The Mico University College Lecture Theatre, St Andrew.

During last week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness shifted some portfolio responsibilities from Vaz, who was the minister without portfolio with responsibility for land and the environment, to newly promoted Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Eastern Leslie Campbell, after a bid by Vaz to lease land in the Blue Mountain area did not materialise.

In a news release on the development, the Office of the Prime Minister said that Campbell would assume responsibility for land, environment and climate change within the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, while Vaz would be tasked with ensuring that water and housing projects are accelerated, and that economic projects, like the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), become a reality in short order.

But, Dr Phillips said yesterday that what is particularly reflective of the “disdain for the public” was that “there is absolutely no sanction being imposed on the minister.

“The JLP Government has had the Petrojam mother of all scandals, after we have had the Nesol [National Energy Solutions] scandal, after we have had the scandal at the CMU [Caribbean Maritime University]…” he told partisans attending the meeting.

“And the only comment the prime minister seeks to make against this background is that he took account of these changes; it is a blot on Jamaica. It reflects a view that the people have, that the entire purpose of the Government is to take the public funds and to use the powers of Government as if they are their personal domain, personal property to be exercised for the personal benefit of the JLP, and it is not acceptable to the PNP, and we are going to continue to operate on the basis that sanctions must be applied,” the PNP president added.

He stated that the same minister was not only named in the problems with the bushing contract, but was also named in relation to the sale of assets in Ocho Rios.

“He indicated that if he did not get back his [US] visa he would resign. There has been no resignation. The PM cannot be silent. Jamaica needs to know if an investigation has been carried out in relation to the scandal. Jamaica needs to know what would be the result of the investigations. Jamaica needs to hear from the prime minister of the country what standards he is going to apply,” Phillips argued.

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