Please find below a press release posted by the environmental sector, together with the text of the letter sent to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to be read out at today’s meeting of the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ).
Environmental sector suspends attendance at Partnership for Jamaica meetings
Following sector-wide consultation and participation in two meetings with the Governance Committee of the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ), the environmental sector has written to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller suspending their participation in Partnership for Jamaica meetings.
The letter to the PM outlines the sector’s discomfort with the National Housing Trust/Outameni transactions and regards the handling of this matter as a breach of the Partnership Agreement, which emphasizes accountability and transparency.
“We have asked that our letter to the Prime Minister re read at tomorrow’s Council meeting of the PFJ, so it can be part of the record,” said Diana McCaulay, the environmental representative on the PFJ.
The environmental groups have not yet taken a position on what would be needed for them to return to the table, but discussions are ongoing.
A copy of the letter to the Prime Minister is attached.
December 12, 2014
The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, ON, MP
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Partnership for Jamaica
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, hereby inform you of the decision of the environmental sector of civil society to suspend our participation in the meetings of the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ) with immediate effect. Our decision rests on a point of principle and we suspend our participation as an act of protest. The environmental sector was pleased to be asked to contribute to the partnership process, but over the past sixteen months, we have been profoundly disappointed by the lack of progress towards the transformation in public life, which the Agreement explicitly states is necessary.
We have revisited the commitments signed by the partners. Due to the recent events concerning the Outameni/Orange Valley transactions by the National Housing Trust (NHT) as well as other matters summarized below, we assert that these commitments are not being adhered to by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ).
We take as our point of departure, the general commitments by the GOJ outlined in the PFJ Agreement. We restate them below:
The Government, reaffirming that the key principles of transparency, accountability, integrity, genuine consultation, thoughtful people-centred action, including gender, youth and environmental awareness, focused on long term national goals, rather than short term political imperatives, are required to engender trust and confidence in all national processes, commit to bring these principles to the partnership process.
We do not consider that these principles have been upheld. The Outameni/Orange Valley transactions display a deplorable lack of transparency and accountability and we consider these transactions to be an inappropriate use of contributors’ funds. We would also like to state this particular issue is not the only concern the environmental sector has raised during our time on the PFJ – others have been documented, presented at meetings and been the subject of formal notification of what we consider to be breaches of the PFJ Agreement. These include the destruction of the riparian zones of the Cabarita River in Westmoreland and the Spring Garden/Black River in Clarendon and the egregious lack of transparency that has attended and continues to attend the announcement of a large transshipment port to be built in the Portland Bight Protected Area.
More generally, we have significant concerns about the way public sector boards are appointed – we do not feel there is the required attention paid to the independence and appropriate expertise of members. We are concerned that the oversight of state boards appears to be lacking – demonstrated, in this case, by the lack of knowledge at the Office of the Prime Minister of this controversial transaction.
It is particularly disturbing that despite the public’s clear lack of confidence in the Board of the NHT, the decision of the Cabinet is to retain the Chairman and the members who refused to resign, apparently to conduct business as usual. We find these actions unacceptable.
We all affirm our commitment to development for Jamaica that demonstrates due regard for the island’s natural resources which underpin our economy, our quality of life and our future. We further affirm our belief that openness, transparency, integrity and the rule of law are indeed the foundations for building trust, good governance and a progressive society. We continue to hope that the kind of transformation that is articulated in the Partnership for Jamaica Agreement will occur, but until we see the GOJ taking concrete steps to meet its own commitments, we will not participate.
Signed on behalf of the below organizations and individuals.
Organizations (in alphabetical order)
BirdsCaribbean Dr. Ann Sutton
Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation Ingrid Parchment
Countrystyle Community Tourism Network Diana McIntyre-Pike
Jamaica Caves Organization Jan Pauel
Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust Dr. Susan Otuokon
Jamaica Environment Trust Diana McCaulay
Northern Jamaica Conservation Association Wendy Lee
Plant Conservation Centre Andreas Oberli
Portland Environmental Protection Association Machel Donegan
South Trelawny Environmental Agency Hugh Dixon
Windsor Research Centre Michael Schwartz
Rev. Peter Espeut
Karen McDonald Gayle
Dr. Kurt McLaren
Dr. Byron Wilson