Farmers Affected by Drought to Receive Assistance


Cabinet yesterday (February 28), approved a sum of $12.72 million to provide assistance to farmers and householders stricken by severe drought conditions in the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman told journalists at a post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, that based on a report brought before Cabinet by Land and Environment Minister, Dean Peart, 10 parishes have been identified as being affected by lower than average quantities of rainfall. However, the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth were assessed as being the worst affected.
He said the approved funds to aid the parishes would be administered through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which would be working in conjunction with the Ministries of Land and Environment; Water and Housing; and Local Government, Community Development and Sport to “bring a measure of relief to farmers and householders who are affected by both the drought and by the bush fires”.
The Minister further advised journalists that the Cabinet also approved the tabling of two Bills in the House – the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Original Jurisdiction Bill, and a Bill to amend the Firearms Act.
He explained that the CCJ Original Jurisdiction Bill “is a response to the decision of the Privy Council and the start of the process to ensure that we can get passage of a Bill into Jamaican law to facilitate the operation of a Caribbean Court of Justice in its original jurisdiction”.
Senator Whiteman said the Bill to amend the Firearms Act, was “an intention to fulfil the commitment made by the Government last year and announced in the Throne Speech, that the issuing of firearm user licences and renewal of such licences would be handled by an independent central authority and not in a way that currently obtains”.
At present, the issuing of firearm licences is supervised by senior police officers of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in different regions across the island.
He said the reason for the establishment of a body to govern the issuing of firearm licences was “to ensure that any irregularities, any inefficiencies which may have occurred in the past, can be corrected”.
Prospective members of the authority, Minister Whiteman suggested, could include former Directors of Public Prosecution, High Court judges and members of the judiciary, in whom “the entire society can have confidence”.
This body would have the final responsibility for granting and renewing licences.
The Firearms Bill would also seek to increase the penalties for breaches of the Firearms Act.
“It will provide for the authority to have investigative powers to more effectively monitor the applications which come before it, as well as the use of firearms in the future,” Minister Whiteman said.

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