‘EMBARRASSING’: Fitz Jackson interest in Bernard Lodge development plan sparks debate

Fitz Jackson (left) Peter Bunting and Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips at a church function last year.

After vociferously opposing the government’s Bernard Lodge development plan, it has been revealed that he has leased 20 acres of said Bernard Lodge lands over 20 years from the Sugar Company of Jamaica.

Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz, who is charged by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the implementation of the Master Plan for Bernard Lodge, has declared that Jackson is a hypocrite who did not disclose his interest and that he does not want to see hard-working Jamaicans benefit from the plan.

The Master Plan for Bernard Lodge in St Catherine will see the development of 5,384 acres with 56 per cent of that designated for agriculture, 28 for residential homes and 16 per cent for commercial use. Vaz announced in a press conference last Friday that the Portmore development had created a dormitory community and that lessons learnt would now mean that Bernard Lodge would see people able to live, work and enjoy amenities in close proximity.

Daryl Vaz

Jackson made it clear that his objection to the Bernard Lodge municipality project centred on the fact that the plan posed a threat to agricultural development and the impact it would have on the water supply in the designated area.

He further said that it would be unethical if he was seen to be acquiring lands in his constituency. Twenty acres was found for him to lease from the Sugar Company of Jamaica in the Bernard Lodge area and he was told that the development plan would not impact the operations on acreage earmarked for his company, Celestial Farms Limited.

Political commentator Bryn Thomas, speaking with Buzz, said: “This is embarrassing for both Fitz Jackson and the PNP. After criticizing and looking to halt the project it looks like Fitz Jackson is going to benefit from it. This deal was signed less than three months ago yet he never revealed his interest. It doesn’t look good. As Chairman of the PNP, he more than anybody knows the value and implications of perception.”

A PNP Region One officer retorted: “Vaz is mischief-making. Fitz has not done anything illegal. He leased the 20-acre parcel fair and square and there shouldn’t be a problem. He has always expressed an interest in agriculture. There is no scandal there. What people want to know is why did the US government revoke Daryl Vaz’s visa.”