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Tribalism, an infrastructure for corruption

By Eliot Penn

Sunday, July 15, 2012    

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CORRUPTION will not go away because some NGO runs nice, catchy advertisements in the media, but it will make some of us feel as if something is being done and they have made a contribution. Who could deny them that pleasure?

Corruption is about money, and a few public service announcements, regardless of their extensive rotation, cannot combat the power of the profit motive and the use of corruption to achieve those profits. Let's get real and keep it real.

Our erstwhile contractor general gave a strong speech urging Jamaicans, inter alia, not to practise tribal politics and victimisation. Strong, but surely not original. I declare, without fear of successful contradiction, that tribalism is a necessary tool of corruption. It is a fact that elected officials cannot award contracts or sign cheques to anyone; so upon attaining power the first step is to surround yourself with the necessary 'help' to ensure that either their complicity or, at the very least, their silence, will be assured.

The public sector needs to become a meritocracy. It cannot become one under the present rules. If we review the personnel changes made since the inception of this current Government one begins to wonder if it is that no one who worked on these public boards and committees had any good to offer in the eyes of the present Government. If that is not so, then clearly the stage is being set for corruption on a scale not even imagined before.

The past Administration is also not without sin. We must draw a line in the sand on this our 50th anniversary of Independence. Let this be our last year of political-inspired victimisation and tribalism. Tribalism is one of the ugliest features of our 50 years of Independence. It has underpinned corruption, violence, murder and underdevelopment of our people. Tribalism, and by extension victimisation, threaten to undermine the work of Manley, Bustamante, and all true patriots who follow them in service.

As I put pen to paper, the Daily Observer reports 'Hell in the House' on July 4, 2012. It's a quarrel that started when an Opposition member questioned the gold in the Jamaican colours being replaced by orange, the colour used by the PNP. As if removing the green in the backdrop used to depict the flag wasn't enough, we are further insulted by the continual desecration of our national symbols. Really?

These are some of the reasons 48 per cent of the electorate will not vote for either political party. Can you blame them? This behaviour is repugnant, hypocritical and two-faced. What makes it so repugnant is that this is the behaviour of those whom our parents sacrificed so much to educate. This behaviour is making a farce of our Jamaica 50 celebrations, and if the document that is the source of the quarrel in Parliament was printed by a government institution, then those in charge should be held to account. The elected official cannot print material, but I assume a political lackey agreed to see that it was done.

I close by repeating what I stated at the beginning; tribalism is a necessary tool for corruption to succeed. If you don't see the desecration of our national symbols as tribalism, then you probably are a recipient of the benefits of corruption.

What we must do is move swiftly and put in place systems that will not allow political parties and administrations to corrupt the public sector with the appointment of party hacks and incompetent stooges to underpin and ensure a free hand to enrich party supporters and systemically deepen tribalism. Appointment to public service should be a consensus of both political parties, and if they cannot agree, then the office of the Governor General will make the appointments.

The precedent for this exists. Also, the term of service for public boards should be for a period of seven years, and removal by the same process as appointment. It is called "checks and balances". We need them here to move us towards a meritocracy.

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