PM fends off West Portland spending-spree allegations
Published: Wednesday | March 11, 2009
PRIME MINISTER Bruce Golding has defended his administration's spending in West Portland, a constituency in which the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is trying to win a March 23 by-election.
The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has charged that the Government has embarked on a spending spree in the constituency to boost the chances of the JLP's Daryl Vaz.
But on Friday, Golding told The Gleaner that such claims were "spurious".
"When, for example, within the last two weeks, $850 million of damage was done in St Mary and Portland by heavy rains, and we have to put resources in to try to respond to that ... .
"We have spent $60 million over the last two weeks just reopening roads and clearing landslides. If that is what they are talking about, that is our obligation," the prime minister said.
Portia ups the ante
On Monday, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller ramped up the pressure, calling for Golding to ensure that Vaz "ceases to use the resources of the State in his campaign activities".
"The People's National Party understands that Mr Vaz has continued to give instructions to public officials, in particular those in the Office of the Prime Minister, since the by-election date was announced.
The PNP questioned the spending of "as much as $300 million of government resources in the West Portland constituency over a short period of time," hinting that it might be construed as a ploy to win votes.
Prior to issuing the statement Monday, the PNP had charged that the Golding administration had concentrated loads of public resources in West Portland with a view to securing votes for Vaz.
Appeal for fairness
Peter Bunting, the PNP's general secretary, told The Gleaner on Monday that spending by the Government in constituencies must be done fairly with the objective of attaining development.
"You can't be spending tax-payers' money with a political objective in mind," Bunting said.
But Vaz has said that he was not using government resources and that West Portland has not benefited unduly from the national purse.
"The only public resources I have made use of is my Constituency Development Fund, which I have already used up," Vaz told The Gleaner on Monday.
Political campaigning has intensified in West Portland where a by-election has been ordered since the court disqualified Vaz as member of parliament, on the basis of his being a United States citizen.