Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
KINGSTON, Jamaica--Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness to name a dedicated minister for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries following the resignation of Floyd Green, with Jamaica Observer sources saying Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Andrew East Rural, Juliet Holness is the one being pushed for the job.
Holness is the wife of the prime minister and was named Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives after the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP’s) resounding victory in the 2020 General Election.
Observer sources now say the PM is being urged to move his wife into the Cabinet to replace Green based on “her proven competence and the fact that large swaths of her constituency are rural areas, where she has already proven to have an understanding of the problems facing farmers and the changes needed to move them forward.”
During her early days as a first-term MP in 2016, Holness launched a programme to assist more than 230 small farmers in her constituency to cultivate crops such as celery, purple cabbage, snow peas, broccoli, scallion, and Irish potato under a J $6-million (US $40,500) project dubbed AgriHope.
Since then, she has been assisting coffee farmers in the hills of her constituency, introduced several to the planting of strawberries, and used pop-up markets to help farmers sell their crops.
“Juliet is the right person to replace Floyd, but the PM might be reluctant because she is his wife. But this is only about what is good for the sector,” a major player in the agricultural sector with ties to the governing JLP, told the Observer last weekend.
On Monday, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Lenworth Fulton shied away from endorsing the call for Holness, but made it clear that his organisation would not be opposed to her.
“My position is that any mature person who is hardworking can be put into the Ministry of Agriculture once they are not stretched to run two ministries. We in the sector will accept the prime minister’s choice. That is not to say, however, that we don’t accept Minister [Audley – Ed.] Shaw, because we have worked with him already and he has done some good work,” Fulton told the Observer as he underscored that it is the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint ministers.
“If she comes, we would wholeheartedly welcome her as well; we would not have any problem with her. Anybody comes, I would be out there in the public space welcoming them and taking them to the farmers to get everything going,” added Fulton.
Following Green’s resignation last week, the prime minister assigned Shaw, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, to temporarily take charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, a portfolio he once held.
But the JAS has joined the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) in the call for a dedicated minister.
“We stand with the PSOJ on this matter and we urge the prime minister to seriously reconsider the merging of the industry, commerce, and agriculture portfolios. We fully accept the linkages between these portfolios but are firmly of the belief that the agriculture sector (including fisheries) is a foundational sector, with similar direct linkages to every other aspect of the economy and of daily life.
“As such, it requires the specific and dedicated attention as a stand-alone ministry to build the portfolio – especially at this critical juncture with the [novel coronavirus] pandemic still at the forefront of our consideration,” said the JAS.
In its immediate response to the temporary appointment of Shaw, the PSOJ said while it acknowledged the relationship between agriculture and fisheries, and industry and commerce, it believes that the breadth and significance of the agriculture portfolio require a dedicated ministry with a dedicated minister to provide the necessary attention.
“We, therefore, request Prime Minister Holness to reconsider the merging of the agriculture, fisheries, commerce and industry portfolios and implore him to seek to identify a dedicated minister of agriculture and fisheries to oversee the transformation of the sector,” said the PSOJ.
Green resigned from the Cabinet after a video surfaced showing him at a gathering at a hotel on a no-movement day, with COVID-19 safety protocols being ignored. ~ Jamaica Observer ~