Please find below this morning’s press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which is seeking more information from the Jamaican Government on proposed plans to construct a logistics hub in the Portland Bight Protected Area. JET is a member organization of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition. A NOTE FROM ME: It is understood that Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies may possibly make a statement in Parliament this week on the issue. The Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will also host a forum on the logistics hub on November 12. This will NOT be open to the public and the cost to attend is J$8,000. It is not known whether media will be invited.
“Using the Access to Information Act, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) requested information from several government agencies relating to the development of a logistics hub and/or a transshipment port for Jamaica. Requests were made to the Port Authority, the Ministry of Transport and Works (which has asked for an extension of 30 days to respond), the Office of the Prime Minister (which transferred our request to the Ministry of Transport and Works), the Ministry of Land Water Environment (which said they have no such documents), the Urban Development Corporation (which has not responded at all), and the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce (which said sent a general brochure on the logistics hub).
The information requested was broadly defined and included:
2. The Environment Management Scoping Study for Goat Islands/Portland Bight Protected Area and its Terms of Reference; and
3. Proposals submitted by CHEC or other Chinese interests for the hub or port
In a letter dated October 23rd, 2013, the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) refused to provide JET with these documents, with the exception of the Terms of Reference for the Environment Management Scoping Study. The PAJ’s letter states that the MOU and proposals relating to the development of the port are exempt under the Access to Information Act for the reason that disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence, that premature disclosure would or could have a substantial effect on the Jamaican economy and that the documents contain information concerning the commercial interests of an organization and disclosure of that information would prejudice those interests. The Port Authority also failed to provide JET with access to the Environment Management Scoping Study and did not give any reasons for this.
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) shares JET’s concern. Both organizations view this refusal to disclose the information as displaying disregard for the rights of the Jamaican people to be informed about the decision-making process in relation to the proposed logistics hub and port. The refusal is also contrary to pronouncements made by the Minister of Transport, Works and Housing in his statement to Parliament on this issue on September 10th, 2013 that the government is committed to “fostering the environment where stakeholders can be a part of the decision-making process.”
“The actions of the Port Authority have cemented our view that there is in fact no transparency in the decision-making process regarding the proposal to put this port in a protected area and that the government has little interest in engaging with stakeholders. In keeping with the requirements of the Access to Information Act, we intend to request an internal review of the Port Authority’s refusal to provide this information and if that is unsuccessful, we will appeal this refusal to the ATI Appeals Tribunal,” said Danielle Andrade, Legal Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust.
JCSC and JET are calling on the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing to provide the public with access to the information requested immediately.”
Jamaica Environment Trust
Diana McCaulay, CEO
Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
Petchary’s recent posts on this issue: (Please also find much more information on the No! To Port on Jamaica’s Goat Islands on Facebook and follow @SaveGoatIslands on Twitter)
https://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area
Support for the Campaign to Protect Goat Islands is Growing (petchary.wordpress.com)
Floating To Goat Islands: The “Goatilla” (Plus Thoughts on Eco-Tourism) (petchary.wordpress.com)
How Jamaicans Feel About the Portland Bight Protected Area (petchary.wordpress.com)