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Because the party faithful must 'eat a food'...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Jamaicans should not allow the most recent fire at the Riverton City dump to become just another poorly managed crisis that fades from memory with its last embers.

For it is clear to us that what took place there is a nasty scandal that placed at risk the lives of more than a million people in the capital city and St Catherine.

Add to that the hours lost to businesses and schools that had to close and we get an idea of the further damaging effects of this scandal that, we hold, should not go unpunished.

There's no doubting the information from people on the ground that what was at work was politics — the politics of ensuring that the party faithful are allowed to "eat a food" even if that means placing people's lives at risk.

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The unfortunate reality is that this has been happening for years, spreading across administrations, as if it's some agreed code of reward between the two major political parties that have shared power in this country.

Ms Diana McCaulay, the executive director of the Jamaica Environment Trust, said it well in her article published in last Wednesday's Observer: "The Riverton dump has become a political feeding tree, and the fact that three separate Government ministries — local government, environment, and health — and their associated agencies have completely abdicated their responsibility for public health and the environment and have displayed a staggering lack of accountability, is indeed the real scandal."

Proof of that negligence exists in the Government's failure to provide sufficient budgetary support for an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) project aimed at improving conditions at the Riverton City dump and other dump sites around the country, and to develop an action plan for a modern solid waste management programme for Jamaica.

Under that programme, the IDB signed a US$11.5 million loan agreement with Jamaica in September 1999 that would see an upgrade of the Riverton landfill, establishment of a proper legal and institutional regulatory system for solid waste, and the preparation of an islandwide programme for waste minimisation, collection and disposal.

In addition, the Riverton landfill was to benefit from an environmental impact assessment and monitoring programme, lighting, road and bridge improvement.

In addition, equipment was to have been acquired and maintained, and recommendations should have been made for the siting of regional landfills and transfer stations.

But, as we reported last week, the IDB cancelled the bulk of the funding in January 2007 because of the Government's failure to pay its share and the IDB's own observation of mismanagement, waste, and incompetence in the implementation of the programme.

This cannot be allowed to continue, for it is draining our scarce financial resources and, more importantly, threatening our survival.

It is time, therefore, for the Government to divest itself of its role as benefactor to those who place the country at risk for personal gain; prosecute those who are involved in this deliberate act of iniquity; and re-engage the IDB with a firm commitment to implementing the 1999 project, giving timelines for accomplishing the goals and procedures for any failure.

The political capital that the Administration will lose among those who wish for a retention of the old order will pale in significance to that which it will gain from people who will respect the Government for taking firm action.

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