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Supplies Worth More Than $20 Million Going To SVG

More than $20 million worth of supplies are bound for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as part of Jamaica’s disaster relief aid, as they continue to cope with the erupting La Soufriere volcano.

Speaking at the Kingston Wharves Terminal on April 21, where he called on the crew of the HMBS Lawrence Major, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the coordinated effort is a “demonstration of Caribbean unity”.

“The Government was approached to provide assistance to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines… [and] we mobilised the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to coordinate the efforts. Getting the supplies was easy, but transporting posed the difficulty that we have faced at all times when we are asked to respond, and our friends in The Bahamas have demonstrated, again, what Caribbean unity is all about,” Mr. McKenzie said.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) crew aboard the HMBS Lawrence Major responded to the call and received supplies from Jamaica on April 21 and will be transporting them to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of Jamaica. The vessel leaves port 9:00 a.m. on April 22 for its journey to the eastern Caribbean.

Mr. McKenzie thanked the private- and public-sector entities that partnered to make the donation to SVG possible.

“I want to say a big thank you to the Jamaicans for responding in this very positive way. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Agriculture and Food for the Poor came together and did a fantastic job in not only accepting donations and contributions from a wide cross section of Jamaicans but digging into their own resources to provide the assistance that is needed for the people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.

Mr. McKenzie also thanked the Jamaica Defence Force for organising transport with the RBDF and helping the Government to gather supplies within the designated timeline. He also thanked the Kingston Wharves Limited, which provided berthing facilities and logistics services.

For his part, Senior Director of Preparedness and Emergency Operations at the ODPEM, Horace Glaze, said water and canned food items have been provided.

“We have also supported with tents for the purposes of emergency shelter as well as for operating in the area, and we have also provided portable toilets to support those who are evacuated and are in shelter, as well as the troops on the ground who are coordinating the evacuation and shelter efforts,” he added.

For his part, Commanding Officer of the Lawrence Major, Lt. Commander Omarv Saunders, said the RBDF is also committed to helping the SVG.

“We are called to service and we are prepared to assist St. Vincent and the Grenadines and their recovery efforts. Just not so long ago, the JDF and the Government of Jamaica assisted The Bahamas in the passage of Hurricane Dorian, so we know exactly what it is to require and need assistance. We appreciate that so much and, hopefully, we can continue to assist as best as we can,” Lt. Commander Saunders said.

Local Government Minister Announces Structure of Support for St. Vincent And the Grenadines

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says Jamaica is organizing support for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which are now being battered by the erupting La Soufriere Volcano.

“Our Government has been in contact with the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we are organizing logistical and other forms of support to our brothers and sisters there. We are also fully aware that this devastating event has evoked great concern from our corporate and general citizenry. We are working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and other private sector partners, which include the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporter’s Association, to finalise relief efforts.

An account numbered 212387304, has also been opened at the National Commercial Bank, Oxford Place Branch to accept donations from the public.”

The Government is honoured to stand with the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in this difficult hour, and we reaffirm the concern for and the friendship we feel with them as part of the Caribbean family, as together, we see this period through until the return of normal life.

Bill passed to amend the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA)

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The amendments to the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) allowing for sanctions for infringements under the Covid-19 protocols have been passed to statute.

The Bill to amend the DRMA was passed on Tuesday evening (March 30, 2021) with three amendments and will introduce enforceable penalties against persons who commit breaches under the Act. The fines range from J$3000 to J$500,000.

Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, piloted the Bill in the Lower House on March 23.

“These amendments to the Disaster Risk Management Act are clear, and they have been crafted in pursuit of clear objectives. The circumstances in which the Act can be invoked have been expanded, to ensure that the Government has at all times, the legislative authority within which it can respond swiftly to challenges and secure the interests of the population,” he said.

“At the same time, these changes set out clear sanctions for those who undermine the mission of balancing lives and livelihoods through personal and other forms of irresponsibility, and who, at this point in time, are hindering the effort to save lives, in the face of rising numbers of infections and hospitalizations.”

The Senate passed the Bill to amend the DRMA during its sitting on March 26.

“It has been just over one year since the Coronavirus pandemic made an unwelcome arrival in Jamaica. Since March 10, 2020, the Government has employed the Disaster Risk Management Act as the primary legislative tool to manage this public health crisis,” added Minister McKenzie.

“With respect to the matter of these fixed penalties or fines, I wish to make one thing very clear. These penalties do not replace the sanctions for offences that are already in the principal Disaster Risk Management Act. Anyone who commits an offence, and who is brought to court and convicted before a Resident Magistrate, is still liable to a maximum fine of one million dollars or to imprisonment not exceeding one year.”


Local Government Minister Outlines Special Plans For Easter Weekend Lockdown

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, is giving the assurance that preparations are in place to facilitate several special-interest groupings during the extended lockdown over the easter weekend.

Minister McKenzie states that the arrangements are in place to accommodate the homeless population across the country.

“We will be providing food supplies for the homeless during the extended period of lockdown. In fact, all the Drop-In Centres and similar facilities islandwide operated under the Municipal Corporations will be opened to assist persons who normally access them for meals and medical services. The initiative to construct these facilities began in 2018 under our social protection programme as a means of providing a safe haven for the homeless and mentally-challenged,” he explains.

“Additionally, last weekend’s special feeding programme saw more than 5000 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner provided for the homeless right across the country. This is in keeping with the range of measures in place to address the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The islandwide curfew will begin at 8:00pm on Thursday, April 1 with a lockdown on Good Friday, April 2, 2021. On Saturday, April 3; the curfew hours will begin at 12 noon until 5:00am on Tuesday, April 6. During the lockdown, citizens must remain at their places of abode.

Opening of Gas Stations

The Local Government and Rural Development Minister says that gas stations will be permitted to operate during the lockdown hours to facilitate the essential services and other authorised persons who are allowed to move about.

“Gas stations will not be opened to the general public, and those persons who are allowed to move about during the lockdown periods are asked to have proper forms of identification. Gas station operators are reminded that only petroleum products are to be sold during these special hours of business.”

Trucking of Water

Minister also adds that arrangements are in place for the trucking of water to areas that will require the commodity during the Easter Weekendlockdown. The Municipal Corporations and the National Water Commission (NWC) will be spearheading this project.

“I also want to use this opportunity to emphasize that there should be no gatherings for parties, round robins or any cookouts. Please remember to continue wearing your masks; maintain six-feet social distance, and use a sanitiser where you cannot readily wash your hands with soap and water. The security forces will be out in communities to enforce the protocols that have been announced.”

Local Government Minister Mourns the Passing of Councillor Derron Wood

Hon. Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development has expressed sadness at the passing of the Councillor for the Fairy Hill Division in Portland, Derron Wood. Councillor Wood died in hospital earlier today.

“It is a bitter blow for us in the Jamaica Labour Party family. Derron was a popular and highly respected Councillor, who served the people of Fairy Hill in that capacity for nearly 18 years. He emerged as a new Councillor in 2003, when we won the Local Government Elections as a party in Opposition. He made such an impact throughout Eastern Portland that by 2016, he was the party’s candidate for the General Election. Though he did not win, he put his energy into the campaign to support the current Member of Parliament. I know that she is hurting, the Portland Municipal Corporation family is in pain, and people all over Eastern Portland are grieving.

“It was just under six months ago that we lost Councillor Irwin Brown from the Fellowship Division in the same Constituency. I salute the work and the very visible legacy that Derron Wood has left in Eastern Portland and especially in the Fairy Hill Division. He has cemented himself into the modern history of local governance in this part of Portland, and he is already being greatly missed. No words can ease the pain of his passing, but I offer especially to his family, the assurance that he lived an exemplary life, and has made his parish a better place because he stepped forward to serve.”

Local Government and Rural Development Minister Announces Adjustment to Island-Wide Ban on Burials

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has announced an adjustment to the two-week ban on burials currently in force, to allow for the disposal of human remains in specially prescribed circumstances. “Having met with Funeral Directors and related stakeholders last week, a number of proposals emerged from those conversations. Accordingly, approval has been given for:

1. The burial or cremation of bodies that are in an advanced state of decomposition.

2. The burial or cremation of bodies that are not in an advanced state of decomposition, but have been recommended for immediate burial by the appropriate health authorities, and

3. The burial or cremation of indigent persons who die in state care.


“These measures took effect on Saturday, March 13. I want to make it clear that only the clergy will be allowed to administer the final rites for persons who are buried or cremated in these three circumstances. No family gathering will be allowed. The current Order prohibiting burials remains in effect.”

The Minister also stated that approval has been given to allow families to obtain Death Certificates for submission to the Registrar General’s Department, to facilitate preparations for burials once the ban is lifted. “What this means is that effective Monday March 15, the Registrar General’s Department will issue Burial Orders after receiving Death Certificates, so that families and Funeral Homes can make all the necessary arrangements for the final send-off of the deceased once the ban on burials is lifted. No burials are being authorized by this change. As an additional measure to ensure compliance with the ban on burials, I also want to make it very clear that the Municipal Corporations will not be issuing Interment Orders, without which no final disposal of a body can be done. This ban on burials came about because of the total disregard for the COVID-19 protocols at gravesites all over the country, and the connection between this behaviour and the spike in cases and hospitalizations. The Government will continue to do everything to bring these numbers down, and save lives.”

Minister McKenzie also indicated that the Government is considering additional proposals made by the stakeholders in the afterlife industry, and commended them for their understanding, strong sense of partnership and co-operation with the Administration, as it continues to implement the necessary strategies to preserve and promote public health.

Local Government and Rural Development Minister Says No Double Standard at Work in Granting Of Approval for Sigma Run 2021

Following the announcement by the Most Honourable Prime Minister in Parliament on February 9, applications for sporting events are being considered on a case-by-case basis. An application for the Sigma Run was made and approval was given after a full range of stringent protocols, for which the company was required to manage, were considered. The Ministry recognises the concerns of Jamaicans and the general public and would like to give the assurance that the event was monitored and found to be compliant with the approved Protocols. We are reaffirming to Jamaica that the consideration to grant the approval was based on compliance with the established Protocols only and is the first of a number of applications that was considered.

The Local Government and Rural Development Minister stated that the Government is keenly aware of the general desire for a return to normal life and noted that even-handedness is being applied to all applications for sporting events. Consistent with this approach we are still trying to manage the pandemic, and as such applications for sporting events have to be assessed case by case. The necessary protocols are required to be designed to govern every event that is approved.

Presently, some submissions for events made by the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA) have been approved, while an application from the Jamaica Karting Association is now being reviewed. As the Minister responsible for the management of the Disaster Risk Management Act, I want to assure the public that every effort is being made to ensure that normal societal life can return, while ensuring that COVID-19 is effectively managed. I therefore ask all our people to observe all the health and safety protocols, as this will fast forward our recovery from this pandemic.”

Failure to obtain the proper approvals can have unwelcomed consequences. Unfortunately, this is what happened at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Training camp. While the JFF had submitted an application for the event, it did not wait for approval and sadly multiply cases of COVID was discovered among the players.

Local Government Minister Defends the Government’s Management of The Homeless Population; Says Programmes and Strategies to Improve Their Welfare and Security Will Continue

The Government of Jamaica will continue to care for and develop appropriate infrastructure to accommodate Jamaica’s homeless population. This was declared by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, at today’s ceremony where 100 hand-washing stations were officially provided to the Ministry by Digicel Jamaica to promote public sanitary habits in the fight against COVID-19.

“Since 2016, this Administration has spent over $500 million on new and improved facilities for our homeless population, something that is unprecedented. We have constructed and put into operation six new Drop-In Centres. We have through the Social Protection Programme, been placing a special focus on the plight and the needs of our unfortunate brothers and sisters. This is why, though the buck stops with me as Minister, I am a bit perturbed by some of the comments in the public space, following the brutal killings and assaults of our homeless people in the Corporate Area last week. However, I want to assure all our front-line workers in the Infirmaries and the Golden Age Homes, the staff of the Municipal Corporations and the Mayors, that the work of bringing fundamental change to the lives of our vulnerable people through Local Government will not be stopped. COVID-19 has affected the pace of implementation of some of our infrastructure projects such as concrete and steel houses for the indigent, but we will meet our targets.”

The Local Government Minister also challenged critics of the Administration to voice any suggestions for improving the lives of the homeless population in a structured and credible way, stating that all good ideas will be strongly considered. “We tend to be vocal if and when an incident occurs, but in the normal business of everyday living, there is not much concern that is generally expressed about the homeless, the special needs of the homeless population, and they are not well understood. How we treat our vulnerable, including our homeless, is an indication not only of the services of the State, but also of the attitudes of our society. I am calling for a total overhaul in our perception of our homeless people, even as the Government works to improve their circumstances in practical and sustainable ways.”

Public Hand-Washing Stations to Be Installed Across Jamaica As Government And Digicel Partner To Fight Covid-19

As the Government continues to implement strategies to contain COVID-19, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie has announced that hand-washing stations will be installed in selected public spaces across Jamaica. He made the announcement today, at an official ceremony to mark the handing-over by Digicel Jamaica of 100 hand-washing stations to promote effective cleansing habits. The first installed station is now located at the entrance to the Golden Age Home in Kingston. The Minister noted that the placement of that hand-washing station is significant, as while visits to Infirmaries and Golden Age Homes are still prohibited, essential care workers and other service providers are subject to strict disease prevention protocols.

“A hand-washing station will be installed at Cross Roads. In addition, there will be a hand-washing station at every Municipal Corporation building, and at every Infirmary. This is a tremendous expression of what is possible when there is partnership between government at all levels and the private sector. Digicel continues to be a reliable and innovative partner, and a great corporate citizen. This Government has shown that it is active and acting against the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can’t do it alone. In doing this, Digicel has shown its cognizance that the pandemic is no respecter of persons, and that we are all in this fight together.

The Local Government and Rural Development Minister also specially recognized the Department and Agency of the Ministry, the Board of Supervision (BOS) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) respectively, for their front-line efforts in working will all levels of Government to control COVID-19. He also appealed for care to be taken to preserve the foot-operated devices, as members of the public get accustomed to their presence around the country.


Local Government and Rural Development Minister Condemns Murders of Homeless Men in The Corporate Area

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie has expressed shock at the attacks on six homeless men in the Corporate Area, that left four of them dead.
“We have since learned that they were all chopped by their attacker or attackers. While these are clearly horrific and criminal acts, I am left to wonder if this is the outcome of an outburst of madness. It challenges me to do even more for our homeless population. Although we provide a full range of services at the Drop-In Centres, including overnight accommodation, many of our homeless brothers and sisters use them, but prefer to stay on the streets, thus making them even more vulnerable to organized or random attacks. Even as the police work to solve these assaults and murders, I am appealing to our homeless people to make greater use of these facilities that are dedicated to them. They are staffed by committed professionals who continue to provide total care for all who visit.
“This incident also revives the daily challenge to us all to be a far gentler society, and to ensure that the vulnerable among us are never seen or treated as expendable.”