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Zacca calls talks with PM 'frank, constructive'

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

While the parties involved are tight-lipped, there are signs that tenuous talks between the Partnership for Jamaica and the Government have been salvaged.

Chris Zacca, outgoing president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), has described as "frank and constructive," yesterday's meeting involving Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and a group of peeved civil society members of the general council of the Partnership For Jamaica.

But while he stressed that the meeting was "quite good", Zacca said it was agreed that public comment would be withheld until a press conference is convened by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The accord with various civil, religious, and private sector groups has been under threat, with some members alleging that the National Housing Trust's (NHT) purchase of the Outameni property in Trelawny was in breach of the agreement.

Already, two groups have suspended their participation in the partnership triggered by the controversial $180-million purchase of the property on which the Trelawny-based Outameni Attraction is located.

The NHT is to spend another $120 million to rehabilitate the property and purchase the intellectual property rights of the Outameni Attraction.

Groups suspend participation

Simpson Miller met yesterday with the groups, minus the 51% Coalition, an alliance of women, women's organisations, and partners.

Earlier this week, the environmental and women's groups formally informed Simpson Miller that they were suspending their participation.

Diana McCaulay, who represents the 11 environmental groups on the partnership, told The Gleaner yesterday that the body was not represented at the meeting.

"We have already announced our decision to withdraw from the talks, so there was no need to attend," she said.

The 51% Coalition argued that with the refusal to boot the board of the NHT, the trustworthiness of the Government as a main partner is in question.

The group has called for concrete actions that demonstrate the Government's commitment to and belief in good governance before it can return to the table.

It has also stated that it is not confident that the reconstituted NHT Board would function any differently under the leadership of chairman Easton Douglas.

In 2013, Simpson Miller signed the partnership agreement, committing to social dialogue around issues critical to the development of the nation.

In the lead-up to yesterday's meeting, the partnership's governance committee, set up to manage disputes, met with the civil society members of the partnership.

The outcomes of those meetings were expected to be presented to the prime minister yesterday.

Simpson Miller has dismissed calls to sack the NHT board and has accepted the explanation that the purchase was legal and within the NHT's mandate.