No move for JDF
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE HEADQUARTERS of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) will remain at Up Park Camp in St Andrew.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, during her contribution to the 2012-2013 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday, said her administration would be spending $1.6 billion to rebuild Lathbury Barracks at the camp this year.
"The fact that the barracks will be rebuilt at Up Park Camp is an indication that this Government took the decision that the Jamaica Defence Force, if they are good enough to sacrifice, to put themselves in harm's way for the protection of this nation, they will remain at Up Park Camp," Simpson Miller said.
She told the House of Representatives that the decision to shun the relocation plans of the previous Government "was not taken lightly".
Simpson Miller pointed to the presence of key institutions in the Corporate Area such as the Norman Manley International Airport, Newport West, Jamaica House, King's House and the nation's Parliament being in close proximity to Up Park Camp, arguing that it was unwise to move it.
"The soldiers defend our nation, This Government defends their right to better living conditions," the prime minister said.
The money for the rebuilding of the barracks is to be provided by the National Housing Trust, and members of the JDF's engineering unit will carry out the construction.
In opposition, the Simpson Miller-led People's National Party had staunchly opposed plans by the then Government to relocate the army headquarters. The Opposition had said then that the implications for national security were very serious and that the people of Jamaica must be wary of such a move.
In 2010, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced that the JDF headquarters would be relocated to lands at Caymanas, St Catherine.
"The JDF headquarters is in urgent need of reconstruction," Golding said.
He had told the House of Representatives that the JDF had already been given the lands for the construction of its new headquarters.
"We have already transferred to the JDF over 4,000 acres of land in Caymanas. That will become a new headquarters. They will have a new training facility there and a major operational base. It is something that will be done over time," Golding said.
Golding said the move to relocate the JDF would "free up 270 acres of land sitting in the middle of the city that, in my view, is going to provide an opportunity for us to retrofit the city of Kingston".
He said moving the JDF would "provide it (the Corporate Area) with the lungs that it does not now have and create the kind of facilities that would completely rejuvenate the city of Kingston".