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Heat on Portia

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness addresses the media during a Jamaica Labour Party press conference while party chairman Robert Montague looks on at the party's Belmont Road, New Kingston, headquarters yesterday.

JLP, Church want more answers on Outameni

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The parliamentary Opposition has received the full backing of several influential church groupings, which have called for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to come clean on the controversial transaction involving the National Housing Trust (NHT) and property related to the Trelawny-based Outameni Experience attraction.

Simpson Miller, who has direct responsibility for the NHT, is faced with double whammy as the Opposition yesterday threatened to hit her with a censure motion and warned that it had not ruled out a lawsuit if she failed to come clean.

In weighing in on the issue, prominent church organisations stated that Simpson Miller's response during last week's sitting of the House of Representatives had highlighted the gravity of the matter and they welcomed the decision of some of the NHT board members to resign.

"It has, among other things, revealed the poor stewardship of the resources of our people, both in the exorbitant price paid for such an investment and the lack of a feasibility study that would minimise the risk to the country," the church leaders charged in a joint statement yesterday.

In so doing, the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance, the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, and the Independent Churches of Jamaica joined the call for a fulsome probe into the activities of the board.

Like the Opposition, the church leaders charged that they were not convinced that the full truth of the matter has been shared with the Jamaica people.

"In light of this, as an expression of our commitment to good governance marked by integrity, transparency, and accountability, we are calling for a full and thorough investigation by the auditor general and the contractor general into this matter and that the findings be made public," they stated.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness echoed the Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw's threat that if Simpson Miller continues to "bob and weave" in the face of fresh information, a parliamentary censure motion would be moved against her.

COURT ACTION POSSIBLE

Holness told The Gleaner after a press conference held at the Jamaica Labour Party's Belmont Road office in New Kingston yesterday, that the JLP has not ruled out court action against the Government and board of the NHT.

"It will be an expensive endeavour and so we are seeking assistance from private-sector groups to pursue this course," he said.

"The very foundation of our democracy is under a threat," said Holness.

"I am calling on the prime minister to give us the truth," he added, just hours before tabling new questions for the prime minister in Parliament. Shaw and Shahine Robinson, opposition spokesman on tourism, also tabled questions for Simpson Miller to answer in 21 days.

During the press conference, Lennie Little-White, the former operator of Outameni, was also lambasted for arguing in his defence that black people deserved to benefit from write-offs.

In castigating Little-White for playing the race card, Holness said: "The last time I checked, many people in Jamaica want a house for their contributions to the fund, and the last time I checked, they were black people as well."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com