Corruption accusations fly in heated JLP-PNP local government debate

KINGSTON, Jamaica— In a heated debate preceding the February 26 local government election, the Mayor of Port Maria, Richard Creary, representing the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), took aim at Natalie Neita-Garvey, the spokesperson on local government for the People’s National Party (PNP).

During the debate, Creary posed a rhetorical question, “Would you replace Desmond McKenzie [as Minister of Local Government] with Natalie Neita-Garvey?” He promptly answered, “I’m sure the answer is no.”

His put down of Neita-Garvey happened Thursday night during what was a sometimes heated debate between representatives of the governing JLP and the Opposition PNP ahead of the February 26 local government election. The six debaters – three from each party – repeatedly accused the other side of being more corrupt.

Creary, Venesha Phillips and Senator Charles Sinclair represented the JLP while Neita-Garvey, Allan Bernard and Dennis Gordon represented the PNP.

Creary reminded that a PNP Mayor in Hanover was forced to resign “because she gave a contract to a family member to buy a fridge for her mother.
“If that is not corruption I don’t know what is …,” he remarked.

In August 2014, the then Mayor of Lucea, Shernette Haughton of the PNP, resigned after a probe ordered by then Local Government Minister Noel Arscott, following reports of nepotism in the issuing of contracts and calls for Haughton to resign.

According to Creary, while systems were in place to prevent corruption, “We have the corrupt persons on that side managing those systems and manipulating them”. He also accused the PNP of deception and lies.

At one point Neita-Garvey shot back, stating “I don’t know, I’m really flabbergasted that this [JLP] team could really speak about corruption, I’m floored. The truth is no PNP Minister of Government has ever gone to prison …for selling farm work tickets. None!”

Neita-Garvey was referring to J.A.G. Smith, the former Minister of Labour and the Public Service in the JLP government of the 1980s. He was charged on February 13, 1990, with receiving US$70,000 that was diverted from the savings of farm workers for his personal gain. Smith was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison.