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Editorial: Jennifer's chutzpah

Published:Monday | March 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Grudgingly, we admire Jennifer Edwards for her gall. Few people in her position would be brazen enough to have taken her former employers to court, attempting to cling to their job. They would, instead, be slinking away.

Not Jennifer Edwards.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a statement of Ms Edwards' legal right to challenge the decision of the board of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) not to renew her contract as its executive director, or of the justiciable merits of the arguments that she will canvas before the court. In other words, it is quite possible that she might be able to muster, and win, a case in accordance with the letter on the law.

Morally, Ms Edwards is, in our view, on far different grounds. And we believe that the majority of Jamaicans see it our way.

The management of solid waste in Jamaica has the reputation of a corrupt business and one through which governments funnel resources, even via legitimate contracts, to their supporters. Indeed, it is this perception that dogged the NSWMA during the tenure of the previous CEO, Joan Gordon-Webley, during the time of the former Jamaica Labour Party administration. Mrs Gordon-Webley was politically active.

It is against this backdrop that this newspaper, at the change of government, objected to the appointment of Ms Edwards as the agency's CEO. She is a former member of the women's movement of the People's National Party, for which she contested elections and whose administrations she served as a junior minister. But more important, we did not believe she possessed the competence to manage a solid-waste entity. We believe that time and events have proven us right.

Our perception of Ms Edwards is related not only to the fires at the capital's dump during her tenure, including the recent one whose billowing smoke for days encased the city in choking, toxic smog. It is something more profound: her failure to articulate, at least in public and with clarity - except for whingeing about the inadequate resources - a programme for the modernisation of Jamaica's solid-waste arrangements.

 

Solid-waste solutions

 

We heard little or nothing about alternative ways that garbage collection and the creation of modern landfills could be financed, or about payment models, apart from direct taxation, explored by foreign municipalities faced with the same problem. Nor did the CEO effectively engage the public about privatisation models. Or, put another way, Ms Edwards did not bring the engineering and logistical skills required for the operation of a solid-waste operation nor the compensating creativity to convince us that, all things considered, she was the best person for the job.

So, even without the recent fire - and its effects - we would have welcomed the dumping of Ms Edwards, hoping that she would have gone quietly.

Jennifer Edwards, instead, wants a renewal of her contract, saying she had a reasonable expectation that she would have continued in the job; and is asking the court for an injunction to prevent the NSWMA from advertising and filling her old job. She wants to foist herself on the garbage-disposing public.

Ms Edwards is a political colleague, former adviser and friend of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. As a friend, the PM should tell her that like Riverton City, the capital's dump, the whole thing smells.