In a statement today, the PNP said Minister Hutchinson failed to declare spousal business transactions with the government in the interest of transparency. Consequent on government policy breaches, precipitated by his actions, the PNP said Mr Hutchinson should vacate his Ministerial appointment and his seat in the House of Representatives.
PNP Shadow Minister of Justice, Senator Donna Scott Mottley, said on the grounds of transparency, the Minister was duty-bound to declare that the beneficiaries were connected parties. In this case, his partner, Mrs Lola Marshall Williams and his son, Jason Hutchinson, are domiciled with him, which is a clear connection to the Minister.
Both companies owned by his partner and son were introduced to the government by the Minister and later benefitted from public resources on the instructions of the Minister by way of a letter dated April 30, 2019.
The Party's Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Mr Victor Wright, M.P., also said that by way of the same letter, the Minister improperly referred Holland Producers to the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) as an entity that was prepared to undertake the management of the property. Consequently, 2,400 acres were passed to Holland Producers by SCJ at no cost for a period of one year, recommended by Minister Hutchinson.
Mr Wright said it was, therefore, curious that the lands, which were handed over free of cost for one year to Holland Producers, have been leased to farmers at $9,000 per acre for five years. Over the period, the company, which is 50% owned by the Minister's partner, will realise $108m in lease fees with no obligation to pay SCJ a red cent.
"This is mind-boggling and could not have been agreed to by any government legal officer or agency, but indeed had the fingerprints of political expediency all over it," Mr Wright said.
He further said the Minister's statement to the media this morning that the land was given by the SCJ on a moratorium for one year; therefore, conflicts with statements that there is no lease while the leases which have been executed by Holland Producers with almost 200 farmers are in contradiction to his statement.
"The mounting evidence of conflict of interest, nepotism and cronyism requires that the Integrity Commission becomes involved by initiating a full investigation, as the audit announced by RADA, cannot suffice where a board member and a senior manager have been named in this scandalous matter," the PNP Shadow Minister said.
In the meantime, the PNP candidate for North West St. Elizabeth, Mr Ryan Keating, is calling for transparency in the allocation of land to farmers on the Holland property.
Mr Keating says he has heard of over two hundred farmers being leased land, but neither SCJ, RADA nor Holland Producers have indicated how the farmers were allocated lots. He said he was not aware of any mechanism, including advertisements, which gave equal opportunity to all farmers in the constituency to get land.
Mr Keating said if the selection was made only by activists of the Jamaica Labour Party affiliated to the Member of Parliament, then it would only worsen an already scandalous situation and lay bare the brazen victimisation which has characterised his tenure in office.
- Countries: Jamaica
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