In Jamaica, a Row over Speech

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Above: Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller and Information Minister Arthur Wililams

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Jamaica’s politicians are in a row over acceptable speech, with the government calling out members of the opposition for allegedly “concerning” statements.

Jamaican Information Minister Sen. Arthur Williams cited three statements he said could potentially damage the economy.

The first allegedly damaging statement included a plan to “renegotiate” the country’s IMF agreement.

The second, Williams said, was a claim by MP Peter Bunting that the government might not be able to pay salaries in January due to Jamaica not getting a drawdown of funds from the IMF.

The last, the Minister said, was an alleged statement by Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller that the government would not honour certain contracts entered into by the government.

Williams allegations, however, did not quite reconcile with Miller’s remarks, the last of which were made at a party rally this weekend.

“Once again, we are hearing rumblings about the sale of Dunn’s River,” she said at a rally last week. “I want to say to the government, don’t even try — we will not allow this government to sell off every important property or heritage site belonging to the Jamaican people, so that this generation and a young people and the next gene to come will have nothing, because the Jamaica Labour Party will have sold everything to their few friends — it is not going got happen, the opposition will not allow it.”

The PNP clarified the statements yesterday, saying Miller was referring to the government’s plans to divest properties regarded as part of Jamaica’s national heritage, including Dunn’s River Falls and Reach Falls.

The freehold divestment of those sites, she said, would be reviewed by the PNP should it come to power.

In a statement, the party said it would “not countenance a mad rush to divest state assets without the appropriate divestment rules being followed, and where the country’s assets are being put into the hands of a select few.”

Williams said the government would not be selling Dunn’s River.

Several similar sites are slated for privatization, including Reach Falls, Green Grotto Caves, Two Sisters Cave, Laughing Waters Restaurant and Beach Club, Turtle River Park and Top Forte/Belmont/Roaring River/Malvern Park.

Those attractions are being privatized by concession agreement — that is, the management and development of the assets is being contracted out.

As for the IMF, the delay in review was among a series of potential risks to the economy outlined by Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter last week, including the lack of a certain election date.

 

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