Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Portia warns in-house critics

Published:Monday | December 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Simpson Miller

PM cautions party members to refrain from anti-NHT utterances

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has reportedly taken members of her own political party to task for criticisms levelled at the Government and the board of the National Housing Trust (NHT) over the controversial Outameni deal.

The Gleaner understands that yesterday, Simpson Miller signalled she was not amused at the outspokenness of some party faithful, by issuing a stern warning during a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the People's National Party (PNP) in Montego Bay, St James.

The prime minister veered from the celebratory mode of the meeting, a day after her 69th birthday, to warn Comrades to desist from being critical of the party in the public domain.

"The party leader was quite general, but there was no mistaking as she highlighted the dangers of criticising the NHT matter publicly," said an NEC member who was present at the meeting but did not wish to be named.

"All of the known persons who have taken to social media were at the meeting, and she spoke specifically to that."

Making her presentation as PNP president to the second most powerful organ of the party, behind its annual conference, Simpson Miller opted not to state what consequences were likely to emanate from continued public criticisms by members of her Government.

She was, however, quite pointed in making reference to the temptation of resorting to social networks such as Facebook to vent or criticise the Government.

The prime minister characterised such conduct as unbecoming and likened it to conduct of members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who have been relentless in their criticism of the Government and have called for the NHT board to resign or be axed.

Last month, amid the controversy over the $180-million purchase of the Trelawny property on which Outameni sits, inconsistencies between statements from the NHT board and the prime minister's answers to questions posed by the parliamentary opposition exposed the administration to growing scorn.

"I wished the NHT board had just shut up. We need people in public service who really care about the public, especially when the public hasn't caught your informed, visionary approach to development. #humility #tolerance #selflessness," Angela Brown Burke, a PNP vice-president and wife of party general secretary Paul Burke, posted on Facebook last month.

Brown-Burke is also an avowed loyalist to Simpson Miller.

At the same, time another PNP councillor, Venesha Phillips, of the Papine division of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, described as a slap in the face of Jamaicans the decision of the Simpson Miller-led Cabinet to leave the current members of the NHT board in place.

She said the NHT board chair, Easton Douglas, handled the matter badly.

Phillips also charged that Douglas, by his tone, demonstrated "contempt for the people of this country".

She said on Facebook: "I am a Comrade to my core, and for that very reason, balance is not beyond me. The interest of the people is at the centre for me. We can differ as to whether this was in the interest of the people."

An upset Phillips said her rebuke of the Government's actions was "not about giving ammunition to a dim-witted, politically blind and tribal JLP".

She said: "They are idiots who are making noise for the sake of it and Jamaicans know this. This is about a questionable decision by the NHT board and the fact that the board decided that the people of Jamaica had no authority to question its decision or motive and decided to blow the people off."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com