Vaz blasts Phillips as war of words heats up

Vaz blasts Phillips as war of words heats up

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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THE political war of words between Government Minister Daryl Vaz and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips escalated yesterday with Vaz demanding that the People's National Party (PNP) president sack two of his high-ranking officials and sanction a third.

According to Vaz, Phillips needs to fire St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna as the PNP's chief national campaign spokesperson, and Colin Campbell as the Opposition party's communications director. Additionally, Vaz said Phillips should sanction Kingston Eastern and Port Royal MP Phillip Paulwell, and fire him as PNP campaign director over accusations contained in the Integrity Commission report on its probe into operations at Petrojam tabled in Parliament last week.

Vaz, who has been in Phillips's crosshairs since news broke last month that he had tried to lease property in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park for a private venture, went on the attack, questioning whether the PNP president was shielding members of his party who, he said, “have had strong, adverse referrals in anti-corruption probes”.

The Portland Western MP referenced a contractor general report on the awarding of contracts by the St Ann Municipal Corporation between 2011 and 2015. The report suggests that there was a culture of negligence, nepotism, cronyism and unethical management in the awarding of millions of dollars in contracts to PNP cronies. However, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), to which the contractor general's report was referred, found that Hanna was not guilty of any action that could amount to a criminal charge.

In its review, the ODPP said: “An impartial and fair-minded observer could legitimately form the view that the St Ann Municipal Corporation was being used as a vehicle through which PNP cronies were, over a period of time, awarded CDF-funded contracts with negligent or inadequate supervision as to their execution, which potentially amounts to egregious breaches of the Government of Jamaica's procurement policy guidelines.”

Yesterday Vaz said “it smacks of hypocrisy that Phillips would have the audacity to have Hanna remain as the PNP's chief campaign spokesperson and Colin Campbell as PNP communications director, despite Campbell refusing to give testimony in the public domain about the $31-million Trafigura Beheer Corruption scandal which has haunted him and the PNP for over a decade”.

In relation to Paulwell, Vaz pointed to the disclosure in the Petrojam report that the Kingston Eastern and Port Royal MP had successfully petitioned Petrojam for funds to execute a school project, but the project has not been executed.

“It must be noted that Dr Phillips has adopted a bitter, toxic and obsessive scandal-hunt approach over the past four years and has not put forward one credible idea to help advance Jamaica,” Vaz said, adding that while calling out hypocrisy is important, he's not interested in a tit for tat with Phillips over corruption because it is a serious issue facing Jamaica and deserves honest and sober analysis.

He commended the Integrity Commission on the work it has done to help begin to reduce the scourge of corruption.

He rejected as baseless, innuendos cast by Phillips on the political platform last weekend during which the Opposition leader called for Vaz to be sanctioned due to a contractor general report into a bushing project conducted by the Government. According to Vaz, his name was fleetingly mentioned in the report with no adverse finding.

Vaz noted, as well, that Phillips had also suggested that he should be sanctioned for his alleged role in the Palace Resort/Urban Development Corporation deal. He said it should be noted that unlike several people Phillips has promoted, no adverse recommendations to law enforcement agencies were made by the commission of Parliament which probed the matter in respect of him.

Vaz also accused Phillips of “grasping at straws” by suggesting that he should be sanctioned for submitting an expression of interest in a process which had gone to tender. That reference related to Vaz's attempt to lease land at Holywell in the national park for a private venture. However, he withdrew his interest after objections were raised by the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust.

In his release yesterday Vaz insisted that he broke no law and was fully transparent in his approach to the process which had gone to public tender.

He said it must be noted that regarding the issues raised by Phillips, at no time has he been referred to law enforcement for further probe or to the DPP, or been the subject of any adverse findings by both authorities.

The Portland Western MP said Phillips will “make worse his track record of hypocrisy if he refuses to take action and continues to shield his fellow Comrades”.

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