PNP calls for Hutchinson to resign

PNP calls for Hutchinson to resign

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The People's National Party (PNP) says information now in the public domain relating to the 2,400 acres Holland Sugar Estate Lands, proves that Minister JC Hutchinson was involved in a conflict of interest, breached government's land divestment policy, and abused ministerial power and authority.

The PNP said Hutchinson also failed to declare spousal business transactions with the government in the interest of transparency.

Hutchinson is a minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), with specific responsibility for agriculture.

In a statement today, the PNP called for Hutchinson to resign his ministerial appointment and vacate his seat in the House of Representatives.

PNP spokesperson on 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, 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 said in the statement.

The party's spokesman on agriculture, Victor Wright, 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. He said, consequently, 2,400 acres were passed to Holland Producers by SCJ at no cost for a period of one year, recommended by Minister Hutchinson.

Wright said it was, therefore, curious that the lands have been leased to farmers at $9,000 per acre for five years.

The party noted that over the period, the company, which is 50 per cent owned by the minister's partner, will realise $108 million in lease fees with no obligation to pay SCJ anything.

"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," Wright alleged.

He further said the minister's previous statement to the media declaring that the land was given over by the SCJ on a moratorium for one year, conflicts with his statements that there is no lease.

"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," Wright said.

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