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Where is the money? Campaign funds, Trafigura?

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence. — Henri Frederic Amiel

The braggadocio spending of the People's National Party (PNP), and some of its candidates in particular, in the run-up to and during our 17th parliamentary election was all too obvious, except maybe to those who suffer with political cataracts in both eyes. Reports from 89 Old Hope Road say financial weeping and gnashing of teeth is now commonplace there. The six-million-dollar question remains: Where are the tens of millions which former party treasurer, Norman Horne, said were collected by high-ranking members but never handed over to the coffers of Norman Manley's party?

Riches to rags?

These screaming headlines: 'PNP asks Comrades for money to help party' ( Jamaica Observer, September 26, 2017), and 'PNP seeks to raise $3m at annual conference' ( Observer, September 17, 2017), did not surprise me any.

Recall this bombshell news item by Nationwide News Network (NNN) on August 22, 2016? 'Tensions inside PNP over campaign donations'. The exposť said among other things:

“PNP Treasurer Norman Horne is accusing senior members of the party of using what he describes as significant sums for the sole benefit of their personal campaigns.

“Horne says the actions of the senior PNP members, who he did not identify, has cost the PNP dearly.

“The PNP treasurer made the stunning revelations last month in a report he submitted to the July 23 and 24 meeting of the party's powerful National Executive Council (NEC).”

Norman Manley, the founding president of the PNP, must be having cataclysmic bouts of bruxism, given the state of the PNP today. Twelve months after the PNP's campaign scandal broke, the financial chickens have apparently come home to roost.

Recall that the then NNN exclusive of August 22, 2016 also gave the following details: “Mr Horne is calling on those senior PNP members implicated to do the right thing and hand over the significant sums to the party.

“Norman Horne told the PNP NEC that, as the party sought to fund its election campaign earlier this year, a number of times information received from potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party.

“But he says 'only a few members reported, or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive.

“Horne says the actions of the senior members heavily affected the party's income and had a negative effect on the national campaign.

“He suggested that some senior PNP members had bank accounts which had contributions from donors and those accounts far exceeded the money the party had access to.

“The PNP treasurer said, 'Financially speaking, there was not one central bank but several banks, some of which had more resources than the party treasury.' This gives credence to reports that there were parallel campaigns taking place by rival factions in the PNP in the run-up to February 25.” ( NNN, August 22, 2016)

A mere 17 months after the PNP donned the persona and full regalia of the consummate political boops, it now finds itself in dire financial straits. Where is the money? The PNP needs to tell us!

Is Norman Horne the PNP's ATM?

To date the specific declarations of Horne's report have not been evidentially repudiated by the PNP.

I doubt many folks would question Horne's loyalty and/ or generosity to the PNP.

Recall this banner headline from the Jamaica Observer on November 15, 2010? 'PNP owes Horne $31m for Trafigura'. The story said among other things:

“The People's National Party (PNP) still owes Norman Horne, a former candidate, the $31 million he paid on the party's behalf to Dutch oil trading firm Trafigura Beheer.

“A senior PNP official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, revealed for the first time that it was Horne who bankrolled the payback of the $31 million that one of the party's affiliate groups got from Trafigura.

“Horne declined to comment on the matter when the Observer contacted him.

“ 'My friend, I have no comment on that issue,' was all the businessman would say when queried by this reporter.

“The oil trading firm, which sold Nigerian crude on the international market for Jamaica, said the money was for a commercial transaction that the PNP group called CCOC (Colin Campbell Our Candidate) had undertaken on its behalf.

“But, amid stinging charges of corruption over receiving money from a firm contracted by the State, the PNP said the money was received as election campaign support dating back to 2006, through the group headed by Colin Campbell, the former information and development minister.

“In damage control mode, then prime minister and PNP President Portia Simpson Miller later ordered that it should be repaid.”

If the PNP's mismanagement of their internal finances looks this way, it must mirror how they have mistreated the Jamaican economy, especially in the last 22 1/2 years. The birds tweet that the party had more than a little challenge to settle bills related to the hosting of their 79th annual conference held two weeks ago.

An item in the Jamaica Observer of September 17, 2017 would doubtless have raised concerns among some of its membership. The Observer story said inter alia: “The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is seeking to raise $3,000,000 at its 79th annual conference now underway at the National Arena. The party's Deputy General Secretary Luther Buchanan made the announcement this afternoon.

“Among the donors from the floor were former treasurer Norman Horne, who donated $1,000,000.

“Horne's donation followed aspirant for party chairman, Anthony Hylton, with $100,000.

“At the end of the calls for donation, the party was $500,000 short of its $3,000,000 target.

“The party did not say why the money was being raised.”

Michael Manley's warning

Beverly Anderson-Manley-Duncan, in an interview that was aired on NNN on September 9, 2016, opined that former Prime Minister Michael Manley warned about members whose greed would land the party in major problems. She noted that her late husband did not support the platform of some in the PNP whose primary interest was the winning of elections.

The former wife of Michael Manley must have cringed when she heard this portion of a story captioned 'PNP campaign finance scandal deepens'. It was broadcast on RJR, September 6, 2016.

“A source told RJR News that those who received the money were ready to turn it over, but declined to do so. The source said a member of the Cabinet received US$5 million from a foreign country to conduct the campaign for the election. However, the money was given to another senior member of the party, who handed over a portion to the treasury and kept between US$1.5 million and US$2 million of the amount.”

Former chairman, now chairman emeritus of the PNP, Robert Pickersgill, on September 19, 2016 prophesied, “I am saying to you today, you want to bet that nothing will come of this so-called scandal.”

Rural folks maintain that time longer than rope. I believe them.

Jamaica's best days are ahead

Some months ago I wrote that Jamaica's best days were ahead of us. I am glad that those who continue to 'bun bad lamp for Jamaica' are increasingly finding their wick doused by the numerous positive happenings in the economy despite the lingering challenges. These most recent developments are points of light that all well-thinking Jamaicans should feel good about.

1. Sagicor to build 800-room hotel

Sagicor Group Jamaica is increasing its footprint in the hospitality industry with plans on the drawing board for another investment of approximately US$200 million to build a hotel with about 800 rooms on lands at Rose Hall in Montego Bay, which would be the largest hotel to be developed by a local company.

The project is being spearheaded by Sagicor Real Estate X Fund Limited, the property acquisition and development vehicle for the financial conglomerate.

The hotel site spanning 26 acres is next to the Hilton Rose Hall & Spa, which is also owned by Sagicor X Fund, but the new resort is expected to fly the flag of the company's hotel brand, Jewel.

“We are going to build a new hotel on the land,” Sagicor Real Estate X Fund Chief Executive Officer Rohan Miller confirmed.

It will be larger than the Hilton property, which itself is less than 500 rooms, as well as the other locally based hotels in Sagicor's portfolio. For now, Sagicor's largest hotel property is located outside Jamaica, the 742-room Hilton DoubleTree in Orlando, Florida, acquired two years ago, but the current project would eclipse it, assuming the room count remains.

2. Hotels opened in MoBay represent US$150-m investment

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness and a team from the Ministry of Tourism officially opened three hotels in Montego Bay between Sunday and Monday night.

The properties, which include Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa, formerly Palmyra; Breathless Montego Bay Resort and Spa, and Zoetry Montego Bay, represent an investment of US$150 million. The hotels have provided nearly 500 new and refurbished rooms and nearly 1,000 new jobs.

3. BPO operator Advantage Expanding to Portmore; plans to double workforce

Business process outsourcing company ADV Communications Limited, a joint venture between ICD Group and Advantage Communications Inc of Canada, plans to increase its number of seats by 500 by the end of next year.

It would double the 500 seats that Advantage currently has in operation to 1,000 and expand the company's footprint outside the capital.

“Our expansion has been fuelled by organic growth from existing customers as well as the acquisition of new customers, mostly from the US/Canada,” said ICD President and CEO Peter Melhado on Monday via e-mail.

ADV started four years ago with 50 seats. Today the company operates from two locations in New Kingston, The Towers and the Caldon building, with 500 seats and more than 700 employees. And the company is also finalising plans for construction of another facility in Greater Portmore.

“As a Jamaican-based company, we noticed a number of foreign firms moving into Jamaica to provide BPO services to offshore clients. We liked the space as we believe it leverages a number of our country's competitive advantages, including proximity, service orientation, western culture to name a few,” said Melhado, explaining ICD's plunge into the BPO market.

“Additionally, one of ICD's investment criteria is to create jobs where we operate and the labour-intensivity of BPOs was extremely appealing,” he said.

4. KCT to add equipment, jobs as cargo volumes grow

Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, the operators of Kingston Container Terminal (KCT), will add new cranes and employ more staff by year end to boost productivity at the trans-shipment terminal.

“We now have 860 workers and that will move to about 940 by the end of the year,” said CEO Olivier Tretout following a meeting with Jamaica Exporters' Association members to discuss the trucking impasse affecting operations at the port.

Kingston Freeport is adding two cranes to the current 14 by year end, and will add another two in 2018. The company also plans to boost its drivers from 140 to a minimum of 210. Tretout said he needs more workers to handle the increased volumes of cargo by major customers ZIM and CMA CGM. For instance, in May and July, ZIM's volumes increased by 50 per cent, he said.

KCT is now moving 3,000 containers per day and is on track to hit 90,000 per month in September, up from 71,000 in August. The managers of the port indicated some amount of difficulty finding the skills needed to take on the additional work and is engaged in training recruits. Some 20 workers were already added.

“It's the highest level of production ever in Kingston, but we are not satisfied. We need more drivers and people,” Tretout said. “We are training 15 additional persons every two weeks.”

KCT wants to achieve 4,000 movements per day, he said.

The port operator is trying to woo a third major customer in order to reduce its reliance on ZIM and CMA CGM.

Having a decent job is a tremendous ladder of mental and economic liberation. The Administration is doing the right thing by rapidly expanding the channels through which our people can be put to work or create their own source of employment.

They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. — Andy Warhol

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.