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'Scandal!' - McKenzie wants junior minister to step down for attending 'Bebe's' funeral

Published:Thursday | June 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

 Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

FOLLOWING HER decision to attend and speak at the funeral of Kenrick 'Bebe' Stephenson, who the police said was a leading figure in the lottery scam originating out of western Jamaica, opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Desmond McKenzie wants Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams to step down as junior minister in the industry, investment and commerce ministry.

Describing her actions as "one of the biggest scandals that has ever been seen", McKenzie said "the country should condemn the actions of the minister".

"She attended the funeral and gave support to a man who was not only the founder, but the CEO ... It is a scandal, it's a shame. The most honourable thing for the member to do is to resign as a minister of state because she has brought the government of Jamaica in disrepute," McKenzie said as he contributed to the Sectoral Debate on Tuesday.

Repeated attempts to contact Ffolkes Abrahams for a response proved futile yesterday.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, McKenzie argued that Ffolkes Abrahams' attendance at the funeral has grave implications for Jamaica's relationship with the United States, especially with her being in the investment ministry.

He noted that when Jamaica's area code, 876, appears in sections of the United States, people are afraid to answer because they think they will become a victim of the scam.

"That incident has not only tainted Jamaica's image, but it could jeopardise the relationship that we enjoy with the United States of America," said McKenzie, while referring to Bebe as the "chief executive officer of lottery scamming in Jamaica".

The West Kingston MP also took a swipe at Government MPs when he charged that Bebe was "one of the main financial contributors to the People's National Party in western Jamaica who has tainted Jamaica's image on the global scene".

Unsubstantiated claim

The claim led to Derrick Kellier, a vice-president of the PNP and long-standing MP for South St James rising on a point of order, insisting that the comment be withdrawn unless it can be substantiated. Kellier, the labour and social security minister, like Ffolkes Abrahams, attended the funeral on Sunday. Bebe, who also goes by the name Kenley Stevens, was gunned down last month.

In addition to having served as president of the PNP's youth organisation in St James, Stephenson was vice-chairman of the West Central St James constituency.

The police have long identified him as a key player in the lottery scam, but aside from an arrest in May 2012 for lottery scam-related activities, he was never convicted of any such offence as charges against him were dropped due to insufficient evidence.