Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Common ground found at Vale Royal Talks

Published:Thursday | April 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left) greets Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips before the start of the Vale Royal Talks at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters at Mona yesterday. Looking on are Audley Shaw (left) minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries; Senator Donna Scott-Mottley (centre), leader of opposition business in the Upper House; and Phillip Paulwell (right), leader of opposition business in the House.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips emerged from yesterday's resumption of the Vale Royal Talks having found what the parties described as "common ground" on issues of national importance. These included agreement that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica would provide a plan within a month on how to ensure the maintenance of a clean voters' list.

"The leaders held frank and in-depth discussions on national security, crime, violence, and public safety as well as discussions on important legislation proposed by the Government," a joint statement read.

Matters relating to the burgeoning crime situation and other national security imperatives were discussed, as well as issues surrounding the use of Opposition members to chair parliamentary procedures and committees. It was agreed that several draft policies and bills would be shared for future discussions.

There was also a decision to consider the periodic participation of the private sector, the Church, and civil society groups in the dialogue on crime, violence, and public order.

Howard Mitchell, president of the powerful Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, yesterday welcomed the resumption of the Vale Royal Talks as a vital step towards finding non-partisan solutions to the nation's many ills. He was pleased with the suggestion to have other groups sit in on the talks to broaden the discourse.

"We are extremely pleased that the talks have resumed and we look forward to outcomes that will bring tangible benefits to the people of Jamaica," Mitchell said.

Holness and Phillips each led a four-member team in the first of a series of talks at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters at Mona.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com