Leave the DPP out of the politicking


Leave the DPP out of the politicking

Thursday, July 09, 2020

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Of course, the People's National Party (PNP) is in love with Ms Lisa Hanna. With brains, beauty, a willingness to work hard, and the clear indication of the grit of a formidable politician, she is a big catch for any party.

Still, that is no reason for Dr Peter Phillips, the PNP president, to direct his ire over criticism of Ms Hanna to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn. Indeed, we think it is unbecoming of the Opposition leader.

In the same vein, we commend the Government for extending the tenure of Ms Llewellyn as DPP beyond the age of 60, as required by law, come September this year.

On the eve of her extension of tenure Dr Phillips wrote an unfortunate letter of objection to the governor general, offering the flimsy grounds that Ms Llewellyn has a “poor track record” on corruption prosecution in Jamaica.

We are unaware of any previous public complaint by Dr Phillips against Ms Llewellyn during her 12-year tenure, in which she served across four administrations, dealing with allegations of corruption by players from both political parties.

This draconian move to block her extension therefore comes as a big surprise to us. It is difficult to separate it from the criticism of Ms Hanna, the PNP Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern and the party's national campaign spokesperson.

Readers will recall that the DPP was asked by the then contractor general to look into its report charging cronyism and breaches of procurement laws by Ms Hanna in Christmas work distribution between 2012 and 2015 in her constituency.

A year ago, Ms Llewellyn ruled that the Office of the Contractor General's findings did not rise to the level of a criminal charge, nor was there was any allegation or evidence that MP Hanna “departed” from established procurement procedures. She also found that a prosecutor could not prove “either wilful misconduct or abuse of public trust” on Ms Hanna's part.

The ruling also held that breaches of procurement laws or policies were administrative ones, and, therefore, outside of the DPP's remit. But the DPP added: “Mistake, misjudgement, negligence, or even dishonesty in the award of government contracts are not in, and of themselves, sufficient or conclusive to establish a foundation for a criminal charge.”

We are uncertain why this finding by the DPP was not disclosed before, but we note that it suddenly surfaced in the wake of charges and countercharges between the two main political parties over corruption allegations.

We can only hope that politics was not the motive behind the timing of the disclosure of the ruling, though it's hard not to see a connection.

Dr Phillips's criticism of the DPP is no better. It all seems to be about politics and she does not deserve it after a fine stint in the position as Jamaica's first woman DPP.

Too often Ms Llewellyn has had to point out, sometimes to no avail, that the DPP's office is not an investigative body and not responsible for the prosecution of most corruption cases. The negative perception of prosecutors is largely due to the lack of information regarding the true nature of their work and the circumstances under which they work.

Overburdened by case preparation and court appearances, they have little time for public relations.

Ms Llewellyn does her best, but she is one person and certainly one overworked public servant who does not deserve to be dragged into the nasty underbelly of politics.

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