DEBATE DUEL - Parties clash over disabilities law, women’s shelters
Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has sought to dismiss assertions that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration did not treat the implementation of the Disabilities Act as a matter of priority during its more than four years in power.
‘It’s not true that it wasn’t a priority,” said Johnson Smith.
The legislation was passed in 2014 and to date the law has not been implemented.
The People’s National Party’s (PNP) Raymond Pryce castigated the Government for not implementing the law after “55 months” in power.
Johnson Smith and Pryce were representing their respective political parties in the first of three national debates Tuesday night.
Pryce said the PNP’s track record of social policies, inclusive of persons with disabilities, speaks for itself, naming programmes such as PATH, CHASE, JADEP and special windows at the National Housing Trust and the Development Bank of Jamaica.
“You have not done anything for the community of persons with disabilities or the Disabilities Act. Why should any member of that community, or any of them related to us, give you an extension of credit when you have managed what you were allotted with your mandate so poorly?” Pryce questioned.
PRIORITY FOR JLP
However, Johnson Smith said that the implementation of the act was a priority for the JLP. “One of the actions to be taken is to bring into being the National Council for Persons with Disabilities as its own independent body.
“It would work together with the new National Gender Commission to ensure that there is more effective mainstreaming of persons with disabilities, as well as treatment of vulnerable persons to ensure that we deliver a better quality of life and more support,” she said.
Johnson Smith said the JLP would be providing more economic empowerment grants, more assisted-aid grants, as well as training for persons with disabilities and training for caregivers.
“We care for persons with disabilities and we will make sure that under a Jamaica Labour Party second term, we do even more,” she added.
On the question of shelters for victims of domestic abuse that the JLP had promised in its 2016 manifesto, Johnson Smith said that there were challenges with the procurement process.
She said that shelters have to be established in particular set of circumstances. “They have to be in secret locations so that the women who go there are safe,” she said.
“Finding those locations across Jamaica have been challenging. One will be opened soon, one is being transferred, and one is in the process of renovation.”
She stressed that the gender and protection of women and children were issues that the JLP was deeply passionate about.
She said the JLP would deliver three national shelters that are child-friendly, provide counselling services and training to allow women who are coming from challenging circumstances to reassert themselves, and reintegrate themselves in a positive life.
However, Hanna said that the PNP had been revolutionary in terms of helping and protecting women, citing the Maternity Leave with Pay Act and Equal Pay for Equal Work.
She said a PNP government would give women in abusive situations a single income mortgage through the National Housing Trust so that they could buy their own home and get out of compromising situations.
“I don’t think the minister of foreign affairs understands it because she has been on a plane for too long,’ Hanna quipped.