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Accounting Clerk to Take the Stand in Manchester MC $400 Million Fraud Trial; Again

Alaina Hull

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The second week of the Manchester Municipal Corporation corruption trial is expected to get started today in the Manchester Parish Court, where an accounting clerk, who had been on the stand last Tuesday afternoon, is likely to resume testimony. The witness, who is the fifth to take the stand, is being cross-examined as the labour continues through 112 documents served as evidence, along with invoices and vouchers, to authenticate information such as signatures and handwriting. When the case was adjourned on Friday, 49 documents had been left to be reviewed.

The trial started in 2016, when a joint raid by the Financial Investigations Division (FID), the Office of the Contractor General and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) of the corporate offices of the Municipal Corporation and houses of few senior employees prompted arrests and allegations pertaining to exploitation of funds. In the previous week, prosecutors claimed that the volume of money in question, which MOCA earlier stated was $95 million, has now increased to about $400 million.

Erstwhile representatives of the corporation currently on trial are Sanja Elliott, who was employed as Deputy Superintendent of the Road and Works Department; an acting Secretary-Manager and Director of Finance David Harris; and a temporary works supervisor Kendale Roberts. Former bank employee Radcliffe McLean, Elliott’s employee Dwayne Sibblies, Elliot’s wife Tasha-Gay Goulbourne-Elliott, his mother Myrtle Elliott and father Elwardo Elliott were under suspicion in the investigation and are now on trial as well.

Testimony from the Witnesses

Retired Mandeville Mayor and Chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, Brenda Ramsay, was among the witnesses who had taken the stand last week. The clerk, who is to take the stand again today, is supposed to have been the main accounting clerk from 2013 to 2016, a crucial testimony for the case. The witness‘ testimony disclosed that a critical amount of the documents under scrutiny were signed by Sanja Elliott, Kendal Roberts and herself. A few of the payments made were for the work done in different council divisions as well.

Next witness to testify is former Deputy Mayor, Ervin Facey. The lineup of expected witnesses is anticipated to decrease from 59. The trial is nonetheless expected to continue past the two weeks as planned at the beginning. The Presiding Judge in the case is Ann-Marie Grainger.

The commitment to deliver knowledge and information to the world is a duty that one should not take lightly; it is one that I do not take lightly. Equipped with 10 years of professional writing experience, and even more so of "scribbling in a journal", I aim to provide in-depth, accurate and expeditious news and information. "Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air."- Henry Anatole Grunwald [email protected]

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Transfer Your Voter Registration by June 28 Urges the EOJ

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Registered voters must apply for a transfer of their voter registration by Friday, June 28, 2019. This is the message from the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ). Transferring the vote is part of the process for updating the November 30, 2019 voter’s list.

If voters apply for a transfer of their voter registration after June 28, their process will not be completed before May 2020.

How to Apply for a Transfer of Voter Registration

The Electoral Office stated that the process for transferring voter registration is quite simple. The elector must visit the office of their constituency and apply for a registration transfer.  Furthermore, the applicant must apply at the constituency office where she currently lives. Once the elector makes the application the EOJ transfers the information from the polling division to the new polling division.

After the transfer is completed, the Electoral Office will publish the elector’s new address information in the updated voter’s list.

The Law Requires Applications To Transfer the Vote

The transfer of voter registration is necessary for persons who have changed addresses since the last time they registered or updated their information. Individuals often overlook this important step for keeping their voter registration up to date. It is not until General or By-Elections roll around that the matter of where to vote becomes crucial. The law governing elections requires the voter to vote in the polling division where she lives.

Even if the transfer is to take place within the same constituency, applying for a transfer of voter registration is still necessary. The Electoral Office of Jamaica, therefore, encourages Jamaicans who have relocated since they last updated their voter information to act now to avoid any difficulties.

Three Month Waiting Period

The EOJ noted that the elector must wait three months after applying for transfer before the office processes the application. After this period, one of the EOJ officers along with scrutineers representing the political parties – one each from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) will visit the address to verify that the applicant lives there.

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I Will Not Take a Side! Says Portia Simpson Miller

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I have not and will not take a side.”

The former President of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Portia Simpson Miller made this declaration recently.  Simpson Miller made her comment in a statement posted on her Twitter account two days ago. She also encouraged her party comrades to keep the leadership campaign respectful and clean.

Simpson Miller’s statement came in the wake of the PNP leadership challenge mounted by Central Manchester Member of Parliament, Peter Bunting. Bunting is seeking to unseat Dr. Peter Phillips who is the current President of the PNP.

Don’t Use My Name and Image

Also, Portia Simpson Miller asked in her statement that the campaign not use her name and image. Her request to distance her name and likeness from this potentially divisive campaign is in a bid to counter any speculation that she is in favour of either of the Peters. She did not want anything to suggest that she intended to take a side in this leadership race.

Further, Simpson Miller encouraged her comrades to campaign vigorously for their candidate. She, however, cautioned that they should be mindful that following an internal contest the party must continue its preparation for the next General Elections.

The next General Elections are constitutionally due in 2021.

Simpson Miller also declared that her first loyalty and duty are always with the People’s National Party.

Internal Election Date Not Confirmed

The PNP has not yet confirmed a date for the election of the leader. Initially, expectations were that the elections for a new party leader would be held in September during the party’s annual conference.

However, the party is to arrange the logistics for a special meeting of the party for the internal elections.  Dr. Peter Phillips had requested that the party settles the matter surrounding the leadership challenge early. He had no desire for this matter to drag on and interfere with the agenda of the September party conference.

Disquiet in the PNP over Upcoming Campaign

Supporters of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP). The party is now in the throes of a leadership challenge mounted by Peter Bunting.

Meanwhile, there is much division within the PNP among supporters of Dr. Phillips and Mr. Bunting. Party insiders also contended that the timing of Bunting’s challenge against Phillips was bad. Noting that internal leadership challenges will set the party back, the insiders condemned Bunting’s decision to mount the challenge at this time.

For his part, Peter Bunting defended his decision as the right one. One of his rationales was that the PNP under Dr. Phillip’s leadership will not succeed against the Andrew Holness led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the next General Elections.

Each Peter contends that sufficient supporters are in his corner to ensure success in the internal elections.

So, as the leadership challenge unfolds, the PNP continues to be in the headlines. One could only wait for the final outcome of what can be considered an exciting contest between two contenders who believe they are the right choice for leadership of the 81-year old PNP ahead of the upcoming General Elections.

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Edna Manley College Principal Reveals More to Parliament Than College Board

Alaina Hull

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Edna Manley College is still being plagued by complaints of sexual harassment of students by a faculty member of the College, and no action being taken against him. In a strange development to this story, the Principal of the College, Dr. Nicholeen DeGrasse Johnson has revealed to a parliamentary committee that she had received a complaint about this lecturer, but had not initiated any serious inquiry into him to arrive at the truth. Moreover,  Marigold Harding, the Chairperson, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, has expressed surprise that the Principal chose to reveal this at the committee, but, has never informed her about it. Chairperson Harding feels the Principal will have to offer an explanation for her conduct.

Principal Queried Intensely at the PAAC

Principal DeGrasse Johnson was actually appearing before the PAAC in connection with the school’s accounts, contracts and whether the right procedures were being followed. One PAAC member, Leslie Campbell, however, started questioning her on this sexual harassment issue. It was during this questioning that the Principal revealed that it was one of the faculty members who had informed her as early as 2 years back that the students were complaining to her about a particular lecturer’s misconduct. While the right thing for her to have done at that time would have been to ask that faculty to obtain the complaints from the students in writing, she chose to let the issue pass. This fact came out during the questioning by the committee member.

School Management Taken Aback by the Principal’s Revelations

As mentioned, the immediate reaction from the Chairperson of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has been one of shock. Harding says she and the Board of Management of the College have had several meetings in the past 2 years and never once had the Principal shared with her this information. Going further, the Chairperson has said there would be an emergency meeting of the Board on this issue and the Principal will be called in to answer to the Board on why she chose to speak the truth in front of the Parliament Committee and not to the Management of the College. The term used by Chairperson Harding is that the Principal has put herself in ‘jeopardy’. She expressed surprise that while there have been reports of sexual misconduct in the institution for so long, nobody from within the college had even informed her about it.

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