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January 17, 2014
I don’t see any cause for my concern – CDEMA director

The Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has said that he has seen no evidence of political bias in the distribution of relief supplies and services here.{{more}}

Ronald Jackson, who was present at a press conference of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) on Wednesday, also said that he was satisfied with the level of leadership and management that he had seen taking place.

When asked by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves if he had seen any evidence of political, religious, ethnic, or other bias, in the delivery of food, materials or other services, Jackson stated that he had not experienced this, but rather, he had seen NEMO director Howie Prince operating in an manner of integrity and equity.

“I can only speak to the little I have seen, and from the little I have seen, I have not experienced any such action.”

Jackson said he had witnessed items being brought personally to Prince for the relief effort, which Prince added to NEMO’s distribution mechanism.

“And I think if that is consistent with the practice generally within the system… I don’t see any cause for my concern.

“Obviously, systems are systems and they are always going to be the need for them to be strengthened, but from what I have seen, I think there is no cause to think that generally there is a major issue.”

Jackson, who added that he has 14 years in the disaster response and management field, said he was impressed by the way the management teams are handling the disaster.

“Honourable Prime Minister, I think the level of leadership that is provided in this whole process from the point of yourself, NEMO and the representative organizations of the government, I am impressed that in the early days of the event NEMO stood out front in being very clear in how they wanted to manage the situation.

“It is a programme that is in progress and it is a process and I see where it is going, and I think your disaster management mechanism and older programmes face similar challenges in terms of the request to clear goods that are not consigned to NEMO.

“However, what is important is the level of leadership and management of the process and it is certainly there.”

Jackson pointed out that his organization has been providing assistance to NEMO since the disaster, and is making arrangements to offer more assistance.

He announced that the Jamaican government has offered to release the engineering regiment of the Jamaica Defence Force, when the engineering phase of the recovery process begins.

Apologising for putting the CDEMA head on the spot, Gonsalves said he found it offensive that it could be suggested that the Government would be involved in political bias in the distribution of relief.

“I have sworn to uphold the constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines … so that when I hear it I take it very seriously,” Gonsalves said.(JJ)