The Partnership for Jamaica: Letter from the 51% Coalition to the Prime Minister

Please see below a letter to the Prime Minister submitted by 51% Coalition re: the suspension of participation of the Women’s Sector in meetings of the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ). This was delivered to Jamaica House a little after 2pm yesterday (December 15). The Coalition has requested the Governance Committee to read the letter at today’s PFJ meeting – Tuesday, December 16, 2014, so it will form part of the record.

December 15, 2014

The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, ON, MP
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Kingston 10
RE: Partnership for Jamaica
Dear Madam Prime Minister:

We submit this letter to you as Chair of the Partnership of Jamaica and ask that it be tabled and read for the minutes of the meeting of the Partnership to be held tomorrow, December 16, 2014.

The Representatives of the Women’s Sector are deeply concerned by the several breaches which have occurred since the signing of the Partnership for Jamaica Agreement. These breaches go to the heart of, and profoundly contradict, the commitment to transparency and accountability which was made by the Government. The circumstances related to the purchase of the Orange Grove/Outameni property/buildings by the National Housing Trust (NHT), are the most recent and particularly grievous manifestation.

The Partnership forJamaica (PFJ), signed July 31, 2013, acknowledged that, “levels of trust across the Jamaican society are extremely low” and that “mistrust that exists due to deception, secrecy, inequality, authoritarianism, disrespect and egoism may intensify under conditions of crisis.” Yet, despite this recognition, since the signing of the PFJ actions of different Ministries, departments and agencies of government have broken laws (in the case of environmental breaches by the Ministry of Agriculture), flouted established guidelines (as in the actions of Minister Azan in the Spaulding market matter) and severely undermined trust (for instance the controversies related to the 380 megawatt project and now the NHT matter). We add to the list the poor handling of the sale of Goat Islands Port, and the outbreak of the Chikungunya Virus.

The Government’s stated commitment in the Partnership forJamaica Agreement was to “transparency, accountability, integrity, genuine consultation and thoughtful people centred government focused on long-term national goals rather than short-term political imperatives.” At the signing of the Agreement, the women’s sector stood with pride and a feeling that we were about to see a ‘new day’ in Jamaica. At that time, our distinct feeling was that this Partnership would be the one to begin a process of transformation that would be marked as a defining moment in the history of our country and ourpeople.

Despite the missteps and concerns we have stayed true to the process, we have been candid and committed, honest and sincere in all of our engagements with the Partnership. While we want to stay at the table and we believe that this is perhaps the best opportunity we have to really turn things around for Jamaica, we are concerned that without clear, measurable and resolute change by the government, our remaining at the table would be tantamount to supporting and endorsing a process which lacks sincerity and merely pays ‘lip-service’ to the Agreement.

We, the Women’s Sector, are clear about our right to sit at the table. However, we decided to suspend our attendance at meetings of the Partnership in order to clearly indicate that we want to see tangible signs from our government that there is a firm and unwavering commitment to the principles of good governance.

The NHT matter has severely eroded trust in the stewardship of the Board in general and its Chairman in particular. Adding new members, who remain a minority on the Board did not restore confidence. Several sectors have expressed this publicly.

We believe therefore that the government should demonstrate that it has listened to the several sectors – church, private sector, women, environment and many members of the general public, and turn its attention to a process of trust-building and genuine consultation. We ask therefore that, as a demonstration of good faith with the people, as an act of recommitment to ensuring good stewardship and governance, that:

  • Easton Douglas be removed as Chairman of the National Housing Trust;
  • The current Board be monitored diligently to apply the provisions of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act, and to provide timely and full reports on the operations of the NHT to the people of Jamaica;
  • The composition of the NHT Board be adjusted to increase the number of women to be in line with the commitment to gender equality, as stated in Millennium Development Goal (3), and reflected in the National Policy on Gender Equality;
  • Ensure that the PFJ appoints a Secretariat to manage and monitor the Partnership process using a goal centred approach. Additionally, we are concerned that without thoughtful management the Partnership might become a mere ‘talk-shop’.

This letter will be shared with the other members of the Partnership. We look forward to meaningful dialogue and prompt action on the matter.
Yours Sincerely,

51% Coalition – Association of Women’s Organisations in Jamaica, Carol Narcisse, Dawn Roper, Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Jamaica Household Workers Union, Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers, Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus, Joan Grant Cummings, Joan French, Marcia Forbes, Panos Caribbean, Sistren Theatre Collective, WMW Jamaica, Women Business Owners, Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre and Young Women’s Leadership Initiative.

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