Jamaica — Public Defender Earl Witter says the findings and recommendations of his office’s 2008 probe into the bush fire which damaged $26-million worth of agricultural crops in sections of St Elizabeth, is expected to be completed within another month.
“I expect that I will have determined my findings and the recommendations that I shall make within four weeks,” Witter told the Observer West yesterday.
Just under 90 farmers from several communities, including Ivor Cottage, Bigwoods, Retreat and Retirement, lost roughly 64 hectares of crops when bush fire swept through the farming communities.
Sixty-four goats, valued at more than $200,000 also perished during the blaze, which occurred on March 4, 2008.
The farmers allege that the fire, which took firefighters just under 12 hours to be brought under control, had resulted from narcotics police burning a ganja field in Bigwoods.
At the request of the member of parliament for the area Dr Christopher Tufton, a probe was subsequent launched into the matter by the Police High Command.
But two months later, the finding of the probe which was undertaken by the Black River Police concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the fire had resulted from the actions of the narcotics police.
Not satisfied with the findings of that probe, the member of parliament, who is also the minister of agriculture, asked the Public Defender to intervene on behalf of the farmers.
Yesterday, a number of the affected farmers complained to the Observer West that they were yet to hear the outcome of the Public Defender’s probe.
But Witter in explaining the long delay in concluding the probe said there were several unanswered questions which he said have arisen from the conflicting reports surrounding the matter.
” I can understand their (farmers) anxiety, but there are a number of conflicting statements and accounts that need to be reconciled,” he told the Observer West.