Black Immigrant Daily News
The long-awaited Vale Royal Talks between the Government and the Opposition is scheduled to get under way on Sunday, February 19 after numerous promises and delays of such meetings.
General Secretary of the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Dayton Campbell, confirmed to Loop News on Saturday that the meetings were still to take place.
The Vale Royal Talks come at a time when the Integrity Commission (IC) is facing the heat over the tabling of an investigative report without the subsequent ruling exonerating Prime Minister Andrew Holness of any wrongdoing concerning potential conflict of interest allegations relative to the awarding of contracts between 2006-2009 to a company whose principals are business associates of Holness.
Amidst it all, Opposition Leader Mark Golding called for Holness to take leave of absence from the leadership of the country in the face of the IC’s referral, only to be blindsided like the rest of the country with the publication of the ruling almost two days later and over a month after the actual decision was taken.
When asked whether such developments would affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the Vale Royal Talks, Campbell said, “That’s not a part of the agenda”.
He explained that, “These meetings we tend not to speak publicly about the happenings unless at the end both teams agree to a joint release.
“Maybe, I think, that happens tomorrow (Sunday), but the talks are still on,” said Campbell.
The Vale Royal Talks are a mechanism for members of the two major political parties to have bipartisan discussions on critical issues of national importance and seek to find solutions to the country’s common social problems.
Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for information, Robert Morgan, first confirmed in a media interview last week of the resumption of the Vale Royal Talks.
He said the meeting would get under way at 2pm, featuring Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding, as well as representatives of both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP).
“This one (Vale Royal Talks) will be hosted by the church. As you remember, the prime minister did make an announcement, previously that this one would be hosted by the church,” said Morgan then.
It is not clear what issues will be discussed, but the critical matter of crime and the fight against crime seems bound to be on the agenda, as also the push to make Jamaica a republic.
Last year, Holness signalled that the talks could be used to achieve consensus with the Opposition on the states of emergency (SOEs) in the fight against crime, though the latter has continuously rejected the use of the SOEs by citing that the emergency measures breach constitutional rights, a point that has been largely rejected by the Government.
On another issue, Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, said earlier this month, that the naming of the Constitutional Reform Committee that will, among other things, kick start the process of Jamaica becoming a republic, would be delayed.
This, said the minister, was being done to hold discussions on constitutional issues to arrive at a common ground.
The Opposition has so far declined to name two members of the committee, and they and the Government have since been at odds on the matter, but Golding has indicated that he his hoping for a resolution of that matter if there is clarity from the Government on concerns of the Opposition about the route to be taken towards a republic.
In particular, Golding refused to name the two Opposition members until more information is provided on the amendments that the Government is seeking to make to the Constitution.
However, Malahoo Forte said the Government is not yet at the stage to provide the information Golding is seeking.