'Stinking politics!' - Samuda denies allegations he fired Dairy Board CEO over milk powder, grass dispute
A furious Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, has rubbished claims by his opposition counterpart, Dayton Campbell, that he fired Hugh Graham, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board, over a disagreement relating to the granting of a licence to a company to import milk powder from Colombia for resale on the local market.
"Bulls%*&!" a peeved Samuda declared when The Gleaner asked for a comment on Campbell's allegations in Parliament yesterday.
"I am going to come to the House on Tuesday and I am going to bring every single documentary fact to show that all that is nasty, stinking politics at the lowest garbage level. It is dishonest, it represents everything that is evil about the politics; it is absolutely nasty!"
Campbell also drew the ire of Samuda when he alleged that the minister, who is a dairy farmer, has benefited from the establishment of a 15-acre demonstration plot of Mombasa dairy feeding grass on his personal property in Knollis, St Catherine, with the resources of the Dairy Board.
The opposition member claimed that the Dairy Board had agreed to only five acres being planted on the minister's property.
"It is understood that the dismissed Dairy Board CEO had also disagreed to a further 35 acres of grass being planted on the minister's farm and pulled the technical team from the project that was being escalated without official approval," Campbell told his parliamentary colleagues.
Elaborating on Graham's dismissal, Campbell reported that the former Dairy Board CEO was issued with his dismissal letter from the board chairman on Friday, May 5, 2017.
In a quick response on the floor of Parliament, Samuda rose on a point of order, charging that Campbell's statement was "totally erroneous and is based on no empirical facts whatsoever". He challenged Campbell to make the same comments outside of the precincts of the House, noting that he would be dealt with in the courts.
With purported documents to prove his claims, Campbell outlined that in January 2016, a company applied to the Trade Board for a milk powder licence. He said in keeping with the Jamaica Dairy Development Act, the application was sent to the Dairy Board, through the Veterinary Division of the ministry, for a decision.
According to Campbell, the board, on the evidence of the Veterinary Division, declined the application on the basis that Colombia is not permitted as a source for importation of dairy products based on international agreements. He suggested that an epizootic (an outbreak of disease affecting many animals) status had been assigned to the South American country.
STOOD BY DECISION
He said the company wrote to the minister in a letter dated April 27, 2016, requesting his intervention in the matter. However, Campbell said the minister told the company that he "stood by the decision of the technocrats".
Campbell continued, "Following consistent lobbying from the company, Minister Samuda convened a meeting on January 18, 2017, which was attended by officials of the company, the company's lawyers, the Dairy Board CEO, the chief veterinarian officer of the ministry and the director of agricultural marketing and credit services at the ministry."
He alleged that the minister directed the technocrats at the meeting to grant approval for the company to import 100 tonnes of milk powder per year for sale on the local market, notwithstanding their technical objections.
A strident Campbell said the ministry's technical officer indicated that the source of the imported milk power would have to be changed for them to change their position.
The Dairy Board CEO wrote to the minister via the permanent secretary that the minister's instructions be put in writing, he noted.
"The Dairy Board member stated, on condition that his or her (name) would not be disclosed, that Minister Samuda's instructions were that Mr Graham be fired for disobeying his instructions re granting the milk powder licence to the company," Campbell declared.
He said the Agricultural Credit Board, which was chaired by Graham, was dissolved by Samuda in February, "subsequent to the disagreement".