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Conflict as JLP, PNP get ready for local elections

Jamaica Observer

Conflict as JLP, PNP get ready for local elections

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KINGSTON –  The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday dismissed claims by People’s National Party (PNP) vice-president and Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke regarding the release of funds to parish councils at the end of October.

Desmond McKenzie, the local government minister, who yesterday labelled the PNP as a “drowning party clutching at a straw”, said the process by which funds should be released for work done for councils was not being adhered to.

“…It is the well-established procedure that project proposals should be submitted to the Ministry of Local Government for approval before work commences,” McKenzie was quoted by a JLP release yesterday.

Brown Burke has denied claims by McKenzie that PNP-led parish councils had not provided the requisite submissions to the ministry for release of the Parochial Revenue Fund, which covers the maintenance of parish council divisions.

“I think that it is irresponsible of the minister, who himself was a mayor and a councillor,” Brown Burke told a PNP press conference on Thursday at the party’s headquarters in St Andrew.

She added: “So well does he understand the system and how it works and what that means is that there are bills that need to be paid; people who have been put to work who are expecting to be paid at the end of the month who may not be because the minister has decided not to make the allocations available. These are not allocations that are done at his discretion; these are monies that are dedicated to the local authorities.”

The issue of when funds should be released for projects could become a controversial one as the PNP and JLP get in campaign mode for the November 28 local government elections. Nomination Day is next Friday.

Brown Burke, in response to a Jamaica Observer question, said she has had dialogue with the minister and has made it clear to him that she was willing to meet. She added that she has met the necessary requirements for the release of the funds.

“…I indicated to him that what he had asked — that our programme was sent to the ministry — [was done]. We had a meeting with other mayors [and] they have all indicated that it is with the minister. What the minister has said is that the programme must be signed off by the chief technical officer in the ministry and then that it should come to him. What that means is that there is an additional layer and so what he needs to do is to get his house in order. …If you say this is the process, and we have complied, then he needs to do his job,” Brown Burke charged.

She also argued that several statements made by Cabinet ministers, in light of the November 28 parish council elections, were unsettling.

“I have to place [the minister’s] action in the context of some other irresponsible statements being made by other members of the present Cabinet about how uncomfortable they would be from one party having councillors from another party.

“The system that we have is one where we ask the people of Jamaica to decide who they want as Members of Parliament, and we go back to them and ask who they want as councillors. Every one of us who put ourselves forward in public service must be willing to live with the choices that the people make,” she said.

Opposition Spokesman on local government Noel Arscott also accused McKenzie of “deliberately” withholding funds from the councils.

“…We’re saying that this smacks of political victimisation and manoeuvring, and we’re calling on the Government to immediately release funds to the councils, notwithstanding the announcement of the local government elections for the 28th of November,” he charged.

Arscott, the PNP’s campaign director, also claimed that the JLP Administration was “playing politics with the people’s lives”.

“Put the resources to the councils, where they are due by law, and let us have the country running on a smooth footing,” said Arscott.

McKenzie, meanwhile, said the JLP came to Government on “a platform of performance, humility, transparency, and accountability”. These principles, he said, will be upheld.

“It is clear that these principles are not being upheld by the PNP-controlled parish councils, as evidenced by the numerous investigations into these local authorities,” McKenzie charged.

“… This JLP Administration will uphold the processes and procedures of good governance, and we will deliver our promised prosperity for all without flouting the rules of governance,” he said. (Jamaica Observer)