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G2K, Patriots draw swords over PCJ issue

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

A WAR of words has erupted between young profes-sional groups aligned to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

The lightning rod was the recent forensic audit into the operations of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) during the period 2006 to 2007, and its relation to former Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.

The JLP affiliate Generation 2000 (G2K) fired the first salvo yesterday morning with a demand for Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller to take strong action against Paulwell, who headed the energy ministry during the period that was audited.

Urged to axe paulwell

According to G2K President Delano Seiveright, Simpson Miller should immediately dismiss Paulwell from the People's National Party's (PNP) shadow Cabinet.

"This most recent and other well-known examples of corruption and mismanagement involving the ministry Paulwell headed for years and the state agencies under his control make it high time that he retires from his current role as an opposition spokesperson," Seiveright told The Gleaner.

"Paulwell should speak to the sheer mismanagement, corruption, nepotism and cronyism that appear to have been the order of the day at the state agencies under his watch," added Seiveright.

But in an immediate response, the PNP affiliate, The Patriots, described the G2K call as "folding and flawed".

Patriots Chairman Raymond Pryce said, "No direct reference or indirect inference has been made regarding any involvement of Mr Paulwell in the PCJ matter.

"Mr Paulwell has not yet received a copy of the audit report and has even suggested that the matter be handed over to the police."

On Monday, Paulwell, the opposition spokesman on energy, information and communications technologies, told The Gleaner he would welcome a police probe into the allegations at the PCJ.

However, he questioned the timing of the release of the information, while noting that he had not seen a copy of the audit findings.

"Well, there is a question asked about Manatt, Phelps and Phillips and I find the timing of the release of the information quite strange," Paulwell said, as he noted that the audit report was submitted to the PCJ board in October and the response from Ruth Potopsingh, then group managing director, sent to the board in January.

That was a position shared by Pryce.

"This is nothing but cheap political opportunism to divert the attention of the Jamaican public from the issues plaguing the Government," Pryce said.

Clear evidence

But Seiveright argued that the irregularities found by the auditors at PCJ and Petroleum Company of Jamaica (PetCom) added to issues involving NetServ, the Cuban light-bulb programme and the Trafigura 'donation' to the PNP, which all occurred at entities under Paulwell's watch when he was a minister of government.

"While I expect Simpson Miller to ignore G2K's call and withdraw into silence, the Jamaican people will see the perceived tolerance and unperturbed attitude towards corruption within the ranks of the PNP," Seiveright argued.