Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Fiery JAS meeting - Delegates question accountability for funds

Published:Friday | July 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/ Gleaner Writer
Lenworth Fullerton (left) and Glendon Harris
Hugh Lyon (left), the longest-serving director on the Jamaica Agricultural Society board of directors gets assistance from Glendon Harris and Andrea Brown in checking for his name on the list of eligible voters. The 88-year-old, who has served as a director for 30 years, was denied the opportunity to vote because his name was not on the list of electors.
A member of the Electoral Office of Jamaica scrutinises the identification card of a voter at the JAS election of officers.
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It was a fiery 123rd annual general meeting of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) on Wednesday in the main auditorium at the Denbigh Showground. From the get-go, it was clear that the farmers were not leaving any questions unanswered - from the handling of financial matters to the election of the new president, who would be heading the organisation.

A cane farmer from Clarendon who referred to himself as 'Watchdog' complained that after he took sick, he had expected some sort of loan support from the JAS. But, on "reading the papers", he learnt that the money that should have been available to farmers to access loans was used up by the workers.

"And mi understand sey that the man who was in charge at the time, Government never do nutten bout it ... and now, he is applying to run as the head of this JAS ... . You can answer dat question fi mi, sah? Is that so?" he said, throwing the question to CEO of the JAS Christopher Emanuel, who was facilitating questions dealing with the financial report.

At Emanuel's response that he could not answer that question, Watchdog became more agitated.

"Whey you sey, you can tell member what question fi ask? Farmers, unno need to tek charge," he said to loud cheers from fellow farmers at the meeting.

Emanuel interjected, advising the irate delegate that there was a place and time for everything, but was soon cut off by pleas from farmers, who said that the meeting was the last time that they would be getting an opportunity to air their grouses.

Watchdog, despite the many attempts to get him to give way to others who were in line, refused to budge until he had both candidates - Glendon Harris and Lenworth Fulton - face the question he was asking.

Attempts to shut him down earned the ire of the rest of farmers in the meeting, with them shouting, "Let him ask, bring them out!"

He finally got his way when the two men came on stage. He then asked the question: "Who was in charge of RADA (the Rural Agriculture Development Authority)?" to which Fulton responded that he served as CEO from May 2013 to May 2016.

"Well, a him mi a talk!" Watchdog shouted. "So, are you coming to run JAS like yuh run RADA?"

Fulton responded by listing all his achievements during his three years at the helm of RADA.

The JAS also came under fire for the limited number of persons who were allowed to vote from each division, as well as what farmers said was the JAS's lack of care for the plight they were facing.