Allegations against Mr Robertson demand urgency

Wednesday, November 17, 2010    

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THE damning allegations by Mr Ian Johnson — who says he is a supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — against Energy Minister James Robertson cannot be taken lightly.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force owes it to the country to move with dispatch in investigating what must be for either man, a very painful episode.

We have a dastardly reputation of announcing investigations which never seem to come to an end, and if they do, the results are hardly ever shared with the public.

We note, for example, that the investigation into the sale of firearms stolen from the police armoury has apparently died a natural death. While some individuals have been charged and taken before the court, we are still to hear what systems and measures were in place to prevent such a theft and how they were circumvented.

This latest investigation announced by Commissioner of Police Mr Owen Ellington cannot go that way. These allegations are far too serious.

We are obviously not in a position to comment on the veracity or otherwise of the claims made by Mr Johnson which, he says, involves his safety. It is worthy of note that the allegations were made in pursuance of efforts to gain asylum in the United States, which is by itself, a powerful motivation.

Neither are we able to say yea or nay to Mr Robertson's description of those claims as "spurious, unfounded, erratic and self-serving allegations".

However, the danger of some Jamaicans giving credence to the allegations will cast an unholy slur on the image of a minister who might well be innocent and who has previously been a victim of unproven allegations whispered on the political campaign trail.

We note that the human rights group Jamaicans For Justice has said its lawyers met with Mr Johnson and found him "believable".

Mr Johnson's lawyer in the United States, Mr David Rowe, has accepted the case because, we presume, he believes he has a reasonable chance of obtaining his client's wish to be granted asylum.

However the cookie crumbles, these allegations, until they are proven to be true or false, will drag the minister's name in the mud. This cannot be good for him or the country.

At the very least, he will most likely find it very distracting at a time when he should be concentrating his energies on his sector portfolio on which so much is riding.

Having said all that, we do not agree with the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) that Mr Robertson needs to step down while the investigation is underway. We might have felt differently if he were the national security or justice minister.

The PNP says it believes that "this matter has serious implications for the quality of governance in the country", and that these allegations "render the named minister as impotent in his role to represent Jamaica and the country's interests with our partners abroad".

This is self-serving and unworthy of the PNP.

Politicians, including ministers, are frequently accused of one wrongdoing or another, especially by their opponents. And if every time an allegation is made against a minister he or she is to step aside and await what is often a very lengthy investigation, the Government would indeed be rendered impotent.

The key, we insist, is a speedy conclusion to the investigation by the police. And after that, to let the chips fall where they may.





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