KINGSTON, Jamaica August 18, 2021: The People’s National Party has criticized the Government for failing to put adequate measures in place to ensure that Jamaicans were prepared for, or even warned about, the natural disaster that was about to impact Jamaica, noting that international meteorological warnings had predicted from as early as August 14, 2021 that Tropical Storm Grace had formed and was likely to affect Jamaica.
A statement from the Party noted that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development failed to mobilize the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to ensure that preparatory work was done to mitigate some of the risks associated with natural disasters.
Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, MP in chiding the Government for its lack of preparation for Tropical Storm Grace, stated that - “This Government has emasculated ODPEM’s authority as an independent, professionally-managed agency, which has compromised the nation’s disaster response capabilities. In the past, Jamaica could rely on the likes of Barbara Carby to guide us through these trials. Not anymore. Instead, we now have to rely on the Minister of Local Government, who says he was ‘caught off guard’ by Grace”.
The Opposition noted that MP Denise Daley, Shadow Minister of Local Government and Community Development has, for several months, been calling on the Government to install a permanent Director at ODPEM. Despite this, ODPEM remains without a Director, which is undermining its effectiveness in executing disaster and emergency risk management plans. She said, “The system is so disorganised that there is no PR Officer or Communications personnel employed to the Met Service. It is impractical that technical staff is expected to do forecasting and alert the public on natural disasters through digital and traditional media.”
Daley also suggested that the Government did not activate the Local Disaster Committees and did not articulate a clear plan of how they intend to provide immediate relief to citizens who are affected by the storm. She said, “Yesterday, Jamaica was let down by the disaster preparedness and emergency management system. It is wholly unacceptable that citizens were caught in the storm yesterday because of inadequate warning. The country was relying on the Prime Minister to activate the Emergency Operations Centre, and to convene an emergency meeting of the National Disaster Committee. NWA had no prepositioned equipment and JPS' response was not activated, so restoration in some areas has yet to start. I don’t recall witnessing a more lethargic response by any administration to an impending disaster. There must be a full investigation into this breakdown in protocols and a clear indication from the government on how they plan to lead the nation through the remaining three months of the hurricane season.”
MP Daley is encouraging citizens to be vigilant and willing to help the sick and elderly who may not be able to help themselves during this time, and to - “Stay tuned to the meteorological reports in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Grace and take the necessary precautions such as safeguarding important documents and preparing for emergency evacuation if you're living in vulnerable areas”.