Friday 5 June, 2020

PNP plans walkout everytime Wheatley speaks in parliament

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Dr Andrew Wheatley

The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) says it will stage a walkout during every address given by the embattled Science and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley in the House of Representatives, when sittings resume after the summer break.

“We are not going to sit in the parliament when Mr Wheatley stands as Minister in that parliament. It is a disrespect to the parliament and the Opposition side,” chairman of the PNP, Fitz Jackson, said at a press conference Friday at the party’s Old Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew. 

“He has a right to be there as a Member of Parliament, we respect that right. He was voted in by the people of South Central St Catherine but we will not have any regard for his ministerial position," Jackson continued.

"And anytime he rises in the parliament to speak as minister we’re definitely going to be out the chamber.  We’re not going to walk out (permanently) we’re going to be absent during his interventions. We have no regard for his ministerial authority.” 

There have been growing calls from the PNP and members of civil society for Wheatley to either resign or be fired from the Cabinet. This, over his stewardship of several state-run entities, including the country’s lone oil refinery Petrojam which has been mired in scandal for several months, and over which Wheatley previously had portfolio responsibility when he was also the Minister of Energy.

But, while Prime Minister Andrew Holness stripped Wheatley of the energy portfolio in June and assumed responsibility for energy-related matter, Wheatley has retained a place in the executive. While he continues to sit in the Cabinet, there is a growing list of casualties at the entities for which he had responsibility.

In the wake of the Petrojam scandal during which there have been allegations of questionable spending and contractual arrangements, massive cost overruns, nepotism and cronyism as well as breaches of Government’s procurement guidelines, there have been a string of resignations or firings. These include the three former Jamaican members of the board – Dr Perceval Bahadoo-Singh, Richard Creary and Harold Malcolm as well as General Manager Floyd Grindley.

At the state-run National Energy Solutions Limited (NESOL), where questionable practices have also been uncovered by parliament’s Public Administration and appropriations Committee, embattled Managing Director Carolyn Warren tendered her resignation on Wednesday.

Warren cited the pressure being faced by her and her family after it was revealed that she had been convicted of a drug offence nearly 25 years ago but which was not disclosed at the time she was employed at NESOL.

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