Samuda pays $546,000 grass bill, says he's now more comfortable
Edmond Campbell, Parliamentary Reporter
Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda has declared that he has now paid a little more than half a million dollars to defray the cost for a government project administered by the Dairy Development Board to plant 14 acres of grass at his farm in Knollis, St Catherine.
"I feel more comfortable," Samuda said in Parliament Wednesday.
He has been embroiled in controversy since last week, when his opposition counterpart, Dr Dayton Campbell, indicated that grass was planted on his property under a programme by the state-owned board.
In a "personal explanation" to Parliament which was facilitated under Standing Orders 18, Samuda told his parliamentary colleagues that he paid the Board $546,000 for the Mombasa grass.
Samuda also said in hindsight, he should not have accepted the offer although he was "prevailed" upon to accede.
"Let me make a public statement, had I thought of it more carefully and if the opportunity should ever arise again I would not have gone the route I did," Samuda said.
"It raises questions, it gives rise to speculation and in that regard it is unquestionably an error on my part not to have safeguarded myself appropriately".
Last week, Campbell had indicated that former CEO of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board Hugh Graham was dismissed by the Board, after he disagreed to a further 35 acres of grass being planted on the minister's farm and pulled the technical team from the project that was "being escalated without official approval".
Today, Samuda would only say Graham was fired by the Board.
LISTEN TO SAMUMA SPEAKING LAST WEEK:
He also insisted that he had requested to be billed for all services performed on his property.
However, he had received a letter dated May 12 stating that it was not the policy of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board to sell grass under the programme.
Samuda stressed that he did not initiate the suggestion that the grass be planted on his property, noting that it was the deputy chief executive officer of the dairy board, Byron Lawrence who urged him to accept the offer.
While refusing to name other major players who benefited from the Mombasa grass, Samuda told his fellow lawmakers that owners of large businesses and known political figures also received Mombasa grass under the programme.