Fri | Jul 20, 2018

The people have spoken - Holness now obliged to respond to Cockpit Country petition

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott

Prime Minister Andrew Holness will now have to respond to a petition calling for him to establish the boundary of the Cockpit Country and put an end to mining in the protected area.

This after the petition, started on August 21 by environment interests, achieved the required number of 15,000 signatures within 40 days.

The petition also called for the prime minister to "declare Cockpit Country a protected national park and put in place comprehensive measures to ensure its management and conservation for all Jamaicans, including future generations".

Up to press time, the total number of signatures on the petition reached 15, 878 with seven days left before it expires.

It is the first petition to achieve 15,000 signatures since the launch of the Jamaica House Petition portal in July.

The achievement was not without drama as the petition was removed from the list of petitions after concerns were raised over "automatic signing".

Subsequent to that initial concern, the Office of the Prime Minister, using Twitter, disclosed that the petition portal "has been compromised", triggering fears that all the efforts placed into securing more than 12,000 signatures up to Thursday could be in vain.

But by 9 a.m. on Friday, the petition was brought back online, and the race against time had continued.

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which is one of the organisations with a vested interest in the response of the prime minister, disclosed that paid advertisements were done on Facebook to help secure the required signatures.




"We knew of several campaign efforts carried out on September 18 - Facebook advertising paid for by a supporter of the campaign, WhatsApp messaging, and other social-media posts from the website," JET said.

The environmental advocate organisation complained that confirmation emails from the petition portal ended up in the spam or junk folders of some email accounts.

The Cockpit Country, located in Trelawny, has been the subject of controversy for years, with environmental groups accusing several administrations of Government of dragging their feet in protecting the area from mining.

Speaking in Morocco in 2016, Holness said Cabinet had made a decision on the boundary for the Cockpit Country, but did not put a timeline for public disclosure.