Regional

EU to provide justice boost for Jamaica

BY HORACE HINES Sunday Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 29, 2014    

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SHREWSBURY, Westmoreland — The renovation of run-down courthouse buildings are among several projects within the justice system earmarked to be undertaken by the European Union (EU), as Jamaica's largest grant partner commits its sustained support of funding programmes in the cash-strapped nation.

"We will do some infrastructure (work) because as you know some of the court houses, especially in the country areas, are not in very good shape," said Head of Operations of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Jesus Orus Baguena.

"So that is one of the things we want to help with. Then we will also provide technical assistance and we will support some institutions as well.

"We will continue working in the future. We are starting now... we will be doing work as well in the justice sector, because we have agreed with the Government (that), as one of the priorities, we will be working in that area. We will continue to work in other areas of course, but we will be bigger in the justice sector," Orus Baguena said.

He noted that currently the EU is identifying programmes to be developed in different aspects of the justice system.

He anticipates that infrastructure work in the system will be done over the next two years.

"The justice sector will take some time. We are finalising identification at the moment and you know that takes time because we want to get it right and we need to get designs and things like that. We will start something now, but you will hear from us next year and the year after," Orus Baguena said.

The diplomat was speaking to reporters following a ceremony to hand over houses to beneficiaries under the Sugar Barracks Relocation Project held in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland on Thursday.

Forty-five new houses, valued at nearly $142 million were handed over to former residents of the sugar barracks in Westmoreland.

The units, which are located at three sites: Masemure, Shrewsbury and Barham, will benefit 84 people.

Ground was broken for the construction of the units two years ago.

The houses were built in association with the EU's Sugar Accompanying Measures Programme, which is financing the project.

Only recently, in another western community in Jamaica, Spicy Hill, Trelawny, 39 housing units were handed over to beneficiaries under the Sugar Barracks Relocation Project.

"Just a month ago we attended the handing over of 39 houses in Spicy Hill, Trelawny to 97 beneficiaries. I am particularly happy as I was here (Westmoreland) in 2012 when ground was broken for the construction of these units. Today, we mark the handing over of houses to three sets of workers in Westmoreland Shrewsbury, Batham, and Masemure which together represents 46 units being handed over to 84 beneficiaries," Orus Baguena said.

"For us at the EU it is not about numbers, or size, but about the impact intervention of this nature has on transforming the lives."

He noted that the Sugar Barracks Relocation project is "just one of the programmes funded by the European Union to assist in the transformation of the sugar sector.

"The EU support to the sugar sector programmed for release between 2006 and 2017 is more than $21.3 billion, of which close to $14 billion has already been disbursed," Orus Baguena said.

"The EU remains Jamaica's largest grant partner with some ¤710 million funding for bilateral cooperation over the past 30 years, providing funds for a broad range of projects and programmes such as education, health, consumer protection, democracy, good governance, human rights and the rights of children, gender, the environment and HIV/AIDS," he went on.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, expressed profound gratitude to the EU for its assistance to the country, in particular the sugar industry.

"I thank the European Union for the strong support and continuing friendship with Jamaica as we safeguard the sector and empower our sugar workers," she said.

"I want to commend the ministry of agriculture and fisheries and the Sugar Transformation Unit for their tireless work in implementing these programmes," she added.

Meanwhile, the prime minister lamented that over the years the sugar workers had been grossly neglected.

"They are among the many unsung heroes and heroines of our country. Today we thank and salute them. The Sugar Transformation Programme, the Sugar Workers Housing Programme, and the Sugar Barracks Housing Project, are tangible ways of paying tribute to our sugar workers," the prime minister said.

"Despite the rich history of this parish and other sugar areas, we must accept that the housing and general infrastructure needs of the sugar sector and of the parish have not been fully addressed.

"It is part of my duty as prime minister to ensure that we correct that shortcoming," she stated.

Meanwhile, Orus Baguena said that the EU "believe the transformation of the sugar sector would have failed if there was no focus on addressing the needs of the people affected by the restructuring of the industry.

"It was on this basis that it was decided that all residents of sugar estate barracks, where living conditions were oftentimes difficult, were to be relocated to new housing developed specifically for them," he said.

"This particular initiative of social protection is critical in reducing poverty qnd enhancing development and I must commend the Jamaican Government and ministry of agriculture for working with us in the execution of this strategy," he concluded.

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