JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) caretaker/candidate for St Catherine South Eastern Robert Miller has accused supporters of Portmore Mayor Leon Thomas of trying to defame him.
In a statement Monday Miller, whose entry into representative politics in the parish has increased interest in the solid People’s National Party seat represented by former Local Government junior minister Colin Fagan, said that slanderous memes have been circulating in Portmore relating to him.
“It appeared that it originated from those within the camp of the mayor, and so I would ask the mayor to not only publicly distance himself from it, but also denounce it in the strongest terms,” Miller said.
Mayor Thomas had expressed surprise and disappointment after being called to several locations in Portmore last week — including Passage Fort, Westchester, and Bridgeport — where large groups had gathered to buy agricultural produce at markets arranged by Miller.
Thomas had appealed to residents to use the designated market areas, instead of the those arranged by Miller. According to the mayor, the designated markets were better controlled, demarcated, and secure.
On Monday the mayor told the Jamaica Observer he knew nothing of any attempt to defame Miller. He also denied making a comment that Miller was sabotaging the transportation of food to the designated markets, which are run by Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“What I said was that RADA gave us a list of trucks, and all the trucks did not turn up; and I said that I am hoping and praying that it is not sabotage,” Mayor Thomas stated.
He said it was a fact that not all the trucks which were expected to transport ground provisions turned up at the temporary markets set up to alleviate the unavailability of food attributed to the lockdown of the community to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
But Miller said the mayor was aware that other people had made attempts to ease the food shortage being experienced by Portmore residents.
He said, acting in his capacity as an employee of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, he had been able to secure an arrangement, through the ministry, for ground provisions to be made available to residents of Portmore at various community centres.
After an emergency meeting with local government representatives, convened by the mayor last Tuesday, Miller said the mayor determined there would be five locations for distribution of food and ground provisions. The community centres in St Catherine South Eastern, which were organised by Miller, were excluded from the list of markets.
“I was surprised the mayor excluded them,” Miller said on Monday. “Nevertheless, I sought to comply. [But] even with such compliance, food trucks were denied the right to enter the municipality, and the residents of Portmore were unfortunately denied the opportunity to alleviate the social and food pressures they are currently under due to a malicious political agenda,” Miller said.
In a release last week, Thomas called on residents of Portmore who were setting up “illegal markets” in residential areas in the community to desist, “as they are increasing the likelihood of people contracting the COVID-19 disease”.
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