Thu | Jul 18, 2024

MoBay Chamber in heated debate over advocacy

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:10 AMAshley Anguin - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Oral Heaven
Janet Silvera
Gloria Henry

Consistent advocacy, a new hospital and proxy votes determining the fate of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) were major concerns raised at that organisation’s annual general meeting on Wednesday night.

Held at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Western Jamaica Campus (WJC), the concerns brought life to an otherwise mundane meeting, with noticeable tension between past president of the chamber, Janet Silvera, and re-elected president, Oral Heaven.

The latter, who is in his third term, stoutly rejected the suggestion by Silvera that there was not enough lobbying being done by the advocacy group on behalf of the city of Montego Bay.

“Check your phone and google it. I will not agree with that statement because we are not a fundraising group, we are a lobby group, that is what we are. What you said will indicate that we are not lobbying, and that is not the truth,” Heaven replied. “The reality is we can’t do everything. You know we can’t do everything; I was your first vice-president.”

Silvera countered saying, “I didn’t say you weren’t lobbying, I said you needed to do more. I was very clear with that.”

Her comments were followed up on by past president Gloria Henry, who raised the issue of Cornwall Regional Hospital’s (CRH) ongoing seven-year project and its impact on the community.

“I was recently at a medical public facility where some people were getting medical care. It just brought home the point vividly for me when somebody said that if they have to go back to (CRH) they would prefer to kill themselves. That is how frustrated they feel about the whole system. I understand that it is not an easy job and it takes time but at the same time we need to fill the gap because people genuinely have needs,” Henry stated.

Temporary solution

Offering a temporary solution, she recommended that, as a community, maybe the chamber should approach the Seventh-day Adventists to build a public hospital in Montego Bay.

“Something similar to Andrews Memorial. We always needed that anyway.”

Henry said it doesn’t need to be a full-service, comprehensive facility such as Andrews Memorial, but a facility capable of providing for the needs of people in western Jamaica.

“So, I think something like that the chamber should take that on as an advocate for the community and see if we can fill that gap and provide a solution.”

Over the past three years, Heaven stated, a big part of the chamber’s advocacy was to have CRH return to being a Type-A hospital. On Wednesday, he reiterated that stance.

Silvera also filed a motion asking that no member be allowed to have in their possession more than three proxies during an election.

“One person should not be able to determine the outcome of an entire slate, including the position of president, because they were able to secure several proxies,” she asserted.

Extraordinary meeting

The chamber’s constitution does not limit the number of proxies any one person can have during an election, and, as a result, each year some persons will appear with up to 30 proxies. The motion is to be decided during an extraordinary meeting later in the year.

Meanwhile, veteran member of the chamber, Mary Chambers, questioned Kerwin Hamil, the chamber’s financial director, about the amount of money being spent on food on a monthly basis.

Hamil explained that the chamber’s financial standing was solid and that monies spent were not only on food.

Silvera stated that there was much to gain from members freely discussing issues at chamber sittings, as the chamber was created to advocate on behalf of its members.

“I find that the chamber is extremely weak in this area. If we can’t see where the chamber is advocating and say not enough of that is happening, then something is wrong with us as a city. If we are not able to speak about this at our annual general meeting without it becoming personal, then we have a problem. This is something that is affecting us all as citizens of Montego Bay.”

The top leadership of the chamber includes businessman Yangsen Li, who will remain as first vice-president and Nadine Spence, Sixt Rent-A-Car’s managing director and area chapter chairman of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association’s, who has been elevated to second vice-president.

Attorney-at-law Paulette Neil has been elected as third vice-president.