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Church, private sector to meet on NHT development

Published:Wednesday | November 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

Private sector and church groups are to hold separate meetings to examine the recent developments in the ongoing National Housing Trust (NHT)/Outameni saga.

On Monday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced that the existing NHT board would remain, with the addition of four new members to strengthen it.

The decision ignored loud calls from members of the public and various quarters to sack the board for spending $180 million to purchase the property on which the Outameni Experience attraction sits in Trelawny.

"I am not sure if any explanation is given why the Cabinet made the decision that it has made, but it raises questions about how the Cabinet views the concerns of the public and the various organisations that have raised their voices on this matter, including the Church," Gary Harriott, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), told The Gleaner yesterday.

"I would love to know what were the considerations that led to the Cabinet making the decision they have made, as well as, how well will the board and decisions of the board be received by the public in light of all that has happened? How will they be perceived?"

Harriott said the JCC would meet to discuss the matter.

Last week, several church organisations called for a fulsome probe into the activities of the NHT board, stating that they were not convinced that the full truth of the matter had been shared with the public.

Four board members resigned over the controversy, reducing the board to eight members, prompting the need for replacements. The NHT Act states that the board should have no more than 17 members and no less than nine in order to operate.

The prime minister said additional appointments would be made and that the board would continue until it expires on April 2, 2015.


In the meantime, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has charged that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has "failed Jamaica again" by choosing to retain a majority of political loyalists on the NHT board rather than listening to the voice of the people.

In a statement to the media, he said, "That this was the decision after such a lengthy Cabinet meeting is shameful".

Holness added: "The prime minister and her Cabinet have shown the nation that they are not interested in true accountability, transparency, and good governance. Their actions show a complete lack of respect for the opinions of NHT contributors, civil society, and well-thinking Jamaicans, in general."

G2K, the business affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party, has called for the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and its affiliates and partners to immediately withdraw from all agreements, pacts, and covenants signed with the Simpson Miller administration.

Stating that Simpson Miller's move to keep the NHT board was an arrogant and contemptuous act of defiance and disrespect, G2K said, "The prime minister has clearly demonstrated that she has no regard for the voices of ordinary citizens in this country."

The group says that the productive sector must send the prime minister a powerful signal that the principles of good governance, accountability, and transparency are central to the operations of democratic governments and must be observed.

Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, said his group, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce would meet to discuss the issues, following which a statement would be released.