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McKenzie rejects claim of vulgar politics in Hurricane Matthew response

Published:Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
McKenzie: The Government took all necessary measures to get the country in a state of readiness.We must count our blessings and count them one by one.

Jovan Johnson, Parliamentary Reporter

The Government was this afternoon forced to reject claims from the Opposition that the Andrew Holness-led administration vulgarly politicised and compromised Jamaica's disaster response systems in dealing with Hurricane Matthew.

Noel Arscott, the Opposition Spokesman on Local Government, said the alleged action has set a "dangerous precedent".

"Is it the new norm of this administration?" he asked in response to a statement to the House of Representatives by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

Arscott argued that the Government ignored established practices and laws that require it to defer to technical experts when dealing with the country's disaster response mechanisms.

According to him, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and trained professionals were sidelined.

IN PHOTO: Noel Arscott

McKenzie would have none of it, however, saying he shouldn't be blamed for what Arscott couldn't achieve while serving as local government minister up to February this year.

"Don't blame me that you can't reach out to people and pass on information," and angry McKenzie fired at Arscott, pointing to the absence of regulations to accompany a disaster legislation passed under the previous administration.

As tensions rose and insults were hurled across the aisles, Speaker Pearnel Charles intervened  urging members to avoid politicising Jamaica escaping Matthew's onslaught.

Arscott's comments follow those of Dr Barbara Carby, a former ODPEM head, who said the politicians overshadowed the functions of agencies that are expected to lead Jamaica during times of emergency response.

Meanwhile, McKenzie has also responded to critics of the government's preparedness for Hurricane Matthew.

"The Government took all necessary measures to get the country in a state of readiness.We must count our blessings and count them one by one," McKenzie said.

The Government, and the Met Office in particular, has been facing criticisms from sections of the  public over the forecast of the storm which eventually passed near Jamaica's east coast and not directly over the island's eastern parishes..

Meanwhile, the Local Government Minister said the administration is still waiting on the full monetary cost of the  hurricane to Jamaica.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica is working on the final figures which will include lost production hours.

McKenzie said all reports indicate that there was little damage to the country's infrastructure.

Sections of eastern coastal Jamaica were flooded as the sea breached its borders with some roads.

About 3,900 Jamaicans were accommodated in 198 shelters.