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Voting against SOE was matter of conscience, says Peter Bunting

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Voting against SOE was matter of conscience, says Peter Bunting

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South/Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Peter Bunting says he was a “little lonely” when he ended up being the only member of the House of Representatives to oppose the recent extension of a State of Emergency in St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.

Bunting, the Member of Parliament for Manchester Central, told hardcore People’s National Party (PNP) supporters at a divisional conference in Mandeville last Sunday that he felt “a little better” days later, when he got support in the Senate.

Opposition senators Damion Crawford and Floyd Morris voted against the resolution for a 90-day extension which was passed by the Government with support from three Opposition senators.

Bunting applauded Crawford — who was the guest speaker at the divisional conference — for going to the Senate armed with “evidence and statistics” to illustrate why the government’s insistence on states of emergency to fight crime was flawed.

Bunting, a former National Security Minister, explained to constituents on Sunday night that his decision to vote against the government’s resolution was “a matter of conscience” because he felt the approach, which gives the military and police extra powers, was wrong and unconstitutional.

He told the Jamaica Observer following the meeting that his decision had come as no surprise to the Peter Phillips-led PNP since it had been discussed at an executive meeting the night before the May 7 vote in the House of Representatives.

“I made my position clear (to the PNP executive), that for me it was a matter of conscience, because I sincerely believed that the way it (state of emergency) was being used was unconstitutional, and no one asked me to change my position. So it was not a surprise to anybody,” said Bunting.

The current state of emergency (SOE), set to last until August in the three western parishes, came into effect on April 30. It followed what the Andrew Holness-led government said were intolerable levels of criminal violence.

Phillips and his opposition PNP have warned that the party will not support extensions of the SOE indefinitely. They have repeatedly warned the government against “normalising” the measure as a crime-fighting strategy.

Previous states of emergency, since early 2018, in St James, parts of west Kingston and St Catherine ended earlier this year, after the Opposition withdrew its support. The government needs two-thirds parliamentary support for extensions to stand.

Bunting told Comrades Sunday night that having spent four years as national security minister, he knew that fighting crime required far more than just action by the security forces.

He called for more social intervention initiatives such as his Unite for Change project which had experts working alongside the private/voluntary groups such as the Peace Management Initiative to help communities turn their face against crime.

Bunting credited such initiatives for what he said were far fewer murders when he was minister.

“Under our (PNP) Administration, 2012-16, we had 300 fewer murders every year on average than the JLP Administration before and this current Administration now,” he noted.

He argued that Jamaica’s improved economic position in 2019, compared to seven years ago, after years of debt reduction and fiscal discipline spanning both Administrations, meant the current Government was better able to invest in anti-crime strategies.

“Horace Chang as minister has 10 times the capital budget this year than I had during my time as minister — $20 billion dollars this year. I never reached $2 billion dollars during my time as minister.

“Yet we had much better results than this JLP Administration is getting, (and) we had no states of emergency… I am not saying that we got (crime) to the level where it needed to be; I am saying we were getting much better results than we are seeing now,” Bunting argued.

He added that “from a constitutional perspective (a state if emergency) is not to be used lightly, but even from an operational perspective, if you use it as a routine tool it loses its effectiveness. The idea of a state of emergency is that when it is called, criminals must tremble because they know it is something radical… shock and awe.

“We pointed that out last year when they called a state of emergency. For the first few months it had an impact, but by month four or five it had started to taper off. And by the second half of the year, it was having no further impact at all,” said Bunting, adding that criminals were relocating to other parishes and restrategising.

He claimed a similar trend was showing up in the latest emergency measure.

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Vendors lament poor sales at PNP conference

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Vendors lament poor sales at PNP conference

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 23, 2019

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LIKE the more than 20 other vendors who were hoping to benefit from sales at yesterday’s People’s National Party (PNP) Annual Conference, Eileen left the National Arena in Kingston feeling disappointed.

The sparse crowd that converged on the grounds outside of the venue, which traditionally hosts major political conferences annually, was an early indication.

Few showed interest in the offerings on sale, and those who did relied on a cup of soup or two before turning to marijuana, grabba leaf or alcohol.

“A the worse sales this mi ever see. Nothing not selling; no chicken, no food. Mi nuh know a what going on. Mi prepare fi the whole conference and nobody a buy nothing. Nuh food nuh sell; nuh action naah gwaan today. We just a watch fi see if when it over, when the people dem a come out, fi see if dem want anything; we might get some more sale,” Eileen, who had prepared fried chicken, pork and soup for sale told the Jamaica Observer.

“Mi come here every conference and this one is the worst. It nuh hot fi mi at all. I wasn’t expecting this. Ask anybody, this nuh look good,” she added.

While several party supporters stood behind metal barriers fixated on a display screen set up just outside the arena and police personnel directed crowd movement, Conroy Taylor looked for his next customer.

“Mi deh a PNP conference today, you understand, ah the worst PNP conference with spending. The people dem nuh have the funding; we see it. We haffi drop all price fi do better. Mi waan know what happen to the country. We need some upliftment, because we work hard and we naah get the opportunity. This a the worst conference, mi a tell you. Mi nuh know ’bout the support, but with the spending fi the higgler dem we nuh mek nuh money,” Taylor, otherwise known as “Soupy”, lamented, mentioning that soup prices were cut by 50 per cent to encourage customers.

Latoya’s mind appeared to be elsewhere when the Observer approached her seated across from the National Arena. She was flanked by soup and food vendors but her somewhat exclusive commodity failed to attract much customers.

Liquor lined two plastic tables joined at the ends behind which she sat on a metal chair.

“We don’t know if it (sales) will increase by later, but it’s just not working right now. Every year we come here, but it’s the first it has been like this. Normally you could count on this event to make something, but today is different, so I don’t know. We’re hoping things will pick up. Last year was much better. This has been the slowest year,” she stressed.

Mere metres away from Latoya, a group of men and one woman indulged in a game of Crown and Anchor.

According to one of the men, they were simply enjoying the vibes and “supporting” their political representatives.

Amid the frolic, a female vendor who asked to be identified only as “Do Road” expressed frustration with the day’s progress.

“The last conference a did better, better conference. You know? A mussi because the party divided and the people dem nuh come out, but it naah happen. Today just nuh ready; a the worst conference this. Mi a sell from mi a pickney and mi a come PNP conference fi years now and mi never see nothing like this yet; a just the worst. That’s all mi can say,” the woman told the Observer.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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PHOTO: Cleaning the coast

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PHOTO: Cleaning the coast

Monday, September 23, 2019

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Allan Lewis (third right), managing director, JN Fund Managers, gets support from Stacey-Ann Mighty Whyte (left), Patrick Whyte, and Javine Heath from Allman Town Primary School in collecting recyclable plastics along the Palisados strip in Kingston on International Coastal Clean-up Day last Saturday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)


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Crown, prosecution again haggle over document disclosure

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Crown, prosecution again haggle over document disclosure

BY JONATHAN MORRISON
Observer writer

Monday, September 23, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Despite consensus at last Thursday’s hearing in Porus on the management of the large volume of documents related to the Manchester Municipal Corporation fraud trial, Friday’s sitting of the parish court in Mandeville was again marked by lengthy wrangling over document disclosure.

There was much back and forth between the team of attorneys, representing the eight defendants, and the two Crown counsel marshalling the evidence on behalf of the prosecution.

Parish Court Judge Ann Marie Grainger, in seeking to resolve the issue, referred to a ruling she made at a previous sitting that at no time should the prosecution bring into evidence any document or other exhibit that had not been shared beforehand with the defence.

At the Porus courthouse last Thursday, defence attorney Danielle Archer had suggested that in the interest of time and efficiency documents of like nature could be bundled and presented at once for identification and verification by witnesses, as opposed to handing each, one at a time, to the witness.

At the time Judge Grainger had thanked the defence for their co-operation in offering a suggestion that would speed up the prosecution’s examination of witnesses.

However, in Mandeville on Friday the Crown’s examination of two prosecution witnesses was repeatedly halted by objections from the defence. The objections were based on the issue of documents and, in one instance, a compact disc that the defence team either had not received or felt had not come to hand in a timely manner, but which the Crown was relying on as evidence.

In the end it was not clear whether the prosecution’s examination of the witnesses had been discontinued on account of the objections or if the Crown counsel had completed their examination.

The eight accused individuals are on trial for the alleged misappropriation of more than $400 million of public funds from the corporation. They are all facing charges including forgery, conspiracy to defraud and obtaining money under false pretence.

The trial resumes today at the Mandeville courthouse.

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