Perception is not reality

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Perception is not reality

DARYL VAZ

Sunday, July 26, 2020

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I have taken note of the continued orchestrated and deliberate efforts by some actors in the political space, in collaboration with sections of the media, to, under the guise of fair comment, malign me in the public space. This is in an effort to create a false impression that I am in the habit of breaking the rules. This is not so, and the fact that some appear to believe that the political silly season is upon us does not make this malicious and co-ordinated attack honourable or grounded in truth.

It is to be noted that in my 13 years as a Member of Parliament, and eight and a half years as a minister of Government, I have never had any adverse finding in any report or investigation. I am known to be a performer who gets things done; for which I make no apologies.

THE HOLYWELL LAND MATTER

One of the more recent issues which has been used to leverage false allegations and baseless claims of scandal and corruption is my personal expression of interest in a parcel of land (7.7 acres) in the vicinity of Holywell in St Andrew while I had responsibility for the land, environment and climate change portfolios. The facts are that I first made an application for a parcel of land which was not supported by the Forestry Department and therefore the process could go no further.

I was subsequently contacted and shown the land in question by a board member of the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust, who indicated the suitability of the land for the construction of a log cabin for which I then applied. The application got the support from the Forestry Department, with conditions allowing for the land divestment procurement process to start.

I was one of five people who expressed an interest in the land. I was totally transparent in applying in my name and following the land divestment policy process which included it being advertised, thereby giving equal opportunity to all. At no time did I use my ministerial position in an attempt to unduly influence the process. It must be made clear that I did not breach the rules or attempt to go around due process.

Additionally, my expressed intention to build a cabin on the piece of land was in no way, shape, or form deleterious to the environment or inconsistent with the building modus operandi of operators of the nearby Holywell Park, who have presided over the building of several cabins at the actual Holywell National Park. It must also be further noted that as soon as I became aware of an objection from the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust to the leasing of the property I withdrew my interest — not for any admittance of wrongdoing but moreso, it was the politically correct thing to do. But in hindsight, I admit openly that I should have used better judgement.

I did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing corrupt, or nothing scandalous. Perception is not reality.

UDC/PALACE RESORTS SALE

The sale of Rooms on the Beach is another issue which has been used to malign me in recent times.

It is important, however, that the record reflect the fact that the negotiated price by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) took into consideration the creation of over 7,000 jobs, the inflow of US$30 million in tax revenues over a three-year period, and major and long-awaited redevelopment to Ocho Rios, along with a US$1-million public beach nourishment exercise.

It is instructive that, on May 2, 2019, one of the country's leading trade unionists, Danny Roberts, said that Jamaica potentially stood to benefit significantly from the Rooms on the Beach deal negotiated by the Government with the owners of Moon Palace resort. He also said, in his assessment, that the sale was potentially good for all parties, including the Jamaican taxpayer.

Regrettably, the irresponsible political utterances of the People's National Party (PNP) have caused Palace Resorts to withdraw from the sale, utilising the clause in the contract to withdraw prior to the expiry of the development time frame, costing the people of Jamaica a major, major development in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

It is downright despicable that the Opposition could cause this major investment to be shelved due to the negative publicity originating from its comments on the sale.

It is ironic that the previous PNP Administration, with Dr Peter Phillips as minister of finance, in the conclusion of the negotiation with the Chinese for the $700-million investment (while the Moon Palace sale was $500 million) for the north-south leg of Highway 2000 agreed to give 1,200 acres of prime development land between Mammee Bay, St Ann, and Caymanas, St Catherine, free of cost. To date, 214 acres have been transferred to the investors at a valuation of over US$130 million, with the approximate 1,000 acres left to be transferred — worth today hundreds of millions of US dollars.

It is imperative to note that Dirk Harrison's then bosses at the Integrity Commission have publicly stated that there is no evidence to support his suggestion that I neither interfered in the negotiation process nor essentially negotiated the sale. There is no evidence of this having taken place, simply because it did not.

It is instructive that neither the then Office of the Contractor General (OCG), in its previous dispensation, or the Integrity Commission has, at any time, found any basis to make an adverse referral concerning me to any law enforcement or prosecutorial agency.

I did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing corrupt, or nothing scandalous. Perception is not reality.

DE-BUSHING/OCG REPORT

In another wild attempt to create a perception that I may have broken the rules, PNP President Dr Peter Phillips recently made mention of a 2017 report by the OCG which made fleeting mention of me in the circumstance of my recommendation of a contractor to carry out a particular piece of work. This act by Phillips properly illustrates his desperation, and that of the PNP, because my action came under the auspicies of a protocol put in place by a former PNP Administration that a Member of Parliament should not be bypassed in the process by which work is carried out in his or her constituency by agencies of central government.

Again, it is important to note that at no time was any adverse referral made regarding me in connection with that 2017 OCG report, nor was it alleged that I had broken the law or breached any rules or infringed upon any good governance best practice.

I did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing corrupt, or nothing scandalous. Perception is not reality.

VILE POLITICAL PROPOGANDA

I also note that, despite an apology to my family by former prime minister and former PNP President Michael Manley, and clear statements by law enforcement exonerating me of propaganda which sought to link me to a tragic incident many years ago, my political opponent has sought to use Twitter in a bid to resurrect the rumour mill and give life to the vile and false allegation of yesteryears. This is another act of desperation by the PNP and reflects 'dinosaur politics', which this country is tired of, and indeed has rejected. I will be in the coming days using the civil court to hold persons to account.

I did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing corrupt, or nothing scandalous. Perception is not reality.

I also wish to state that despite being arguably the most maligned politician in Jamaica, possibly second only to the late Edward Seaga (both politically targeted because of our performance), there will come a time when I decide to move on from the political arena. However, for the moment I remain committed to using the political arena to help build our country. I remain firm in my belief that if you serve the people, they will serve you; and who God bless, no man curse.

This has been the case from the time I entered representational politics in 1986 at 22 years of age and ran successfully as councillor for the Waterloo Division in North Central St Andrew. Since then, my life has been committed to giving service to my fellow citizens of Jamaica.

I also wish to state that I remain committed to principles of good governance, fair play and observing due process, but I will not allow my name to be besmirched by political despots who are prepared to, without basis, cast aspersions on the character of others in pursuit of their desperate and unbecoming lust for State power.

I did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing corrupt, or nothing scandalous. Perception is not reality.

Daryl Vaz is Member of Parliament for Portland Western and minister without portfolio with responsibility for water and housing.


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