Phillips cites pattern of abuse by JLP-led municipal corporations

PRESIDENT of the People’s National Party (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips says he has detected a pattern of abuse of power by municipal councils controlled by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Dr Phillips, in a very brief address at the close of a meeting with his party’s candidates for the next general election, at the law faculty building of the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies yesterday, named the St Ann, St James and the Kingston & St Andrew municipal corporations as offenders.

He cited charges against chairman of the St Ann Municipal Council, Mayor Michael Belnavis and the council for spending some $46 million on a parochial sanitisation programme, and the dismissal of two PNP councillors from the St James Municipal Council last week.

“It is a pattern which is also evident from the reports received from the Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Council, where the internal audit committee set up under the previous Administration is being dismantled,” Dr Phillips charged.

“And what is the result in the end? The result in the end is a shameful result, especially in the circumstances of COVID. The result is the misuse and possibly theft of public funds urgently needed by the people of Jamaica who are suffering in the circumstances of the COVID pandemic,” he said.

“I want to send a signal clearly that despite the fact that the Integrity Commission has entered unto the path of investigation [into the St Ann issue], we in the PNP will not relent. We are going to go to the bottom of this issue and ensure that proper justice is done,” he continued.

The leader of the Opposition said the public should see the connection between what happened in the St Ann and St James councils.

He argued that the dismissal of the two councillors can be questioned on many fronts, and announced that the councillors in question have already acquired legal representation. He also pledged the party’s support.

He said that the events tell a story that has been evident since 2016, when the JLP took control of the majority of the municipal councils after taking over the Government.

Phillips accused the JLP of abusing its power within the corporations as a means of avoiding oversight and accountability.

“It is an abuse of power and dishonesty quite frankly, in the circumstances of COVID, [when] people are being exposed to health and mental conditions, to try to unseat people when they are trying to give service to their country,” he stated.

“Stealing is bad at any time, but to steal from people in crisis represents the lowest depths of corruption that has ever been seen in this country,” Phillips said.

He argued that crime has been increasing steadily while the Government continues to rely on a crime strategy that has not worked, and willfully disregards calls from various stakeholders to rethink, engage and embrace new ideas.

He also accused the Government of missing every economy target since 2016, after facing “crisis, after crisis, after crisis”.

Phillips sold the PNP as the party with the best team of candidates to take the country out of a state of constant crisis. However, despite his claim of unity within the party heading into the impending election, it was obvious that several of the party’s MPs opposed to his leadership were absent from yesterday’s meeting.

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