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No joy over meeting on corruption

Thursday, July 26, 2018

To tweak Mr Theodore Roosevelt's rather humorous quote a little: “When they call the roll in the Parliament, the parliamentarians do not know whether to answer 'present' or 'not guilty'.”

We have taken keen note of Tuesday's meeting of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) leader Dr Peter Phillips with several leaders of the private sector, the churches and Dr Trevor Munroe's National Integrity Action (NIA).

The PNP tells us that the meeting was convened to discuss “issues in leadership, dwindling public trust in the political system and corruption that have been plaguing the nation's system of governance”.

The organisations participating in the gathering were the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, and the NIA.

To begin with, we would have preferred to see a joint communiqué or statement coming out of the deliberations, and not just a news release from the PNP. As it stands, we have to rely on the interpretation of one of the participants.

Indeed, it is the participant which is least likely to inspire public trust and confidence, if for no other reason than that it is a political party which is as tainted as the ruling Jamaica Labour Party.

We hasten to stress that the integrity of Dr Phillips has never been questioned, as far as we know. His reputation as a true and upstanding servant of the people is as solid as a rock and he does not stand accused by us.

Our point is that we have come to this place where such a meeting is necessary because of the deep seated corruption that has been perpetuated by the two major political parties, in the process robbing this country of its ability to believe in politicians.

We have tended in this space to be optimistic and to abhor cynicism. Yet we cannot be accused of naivete. Over the years we have seen the pork barrels stuffed with the people's wealth carried off by politician after politician.

Neither are we saying that such a meeting is not to be held, let's make it clear. According to the PNP release, it was initiated by the joint group “amidst corruption allegations affecting the administration, specifically in relation to the scandal at the nation's sole oil refinery — Petrojam”.

The Petrojam débâcle has shamed us as a nation. It is but one of many such scandals the political parities have left in their wake. And it is very easy for a party to want such a meeting while it is in opposition.

In fact, Dr Phillips told the meeting that his party had always taken action against its ministers in the face of corruption accusations. We beg to disagree with the 'always'. All Jamaicans know better.

We will not get excited by any promises by any politicians, especially when it comes to the issue of corruption. It is only by their action that we will judge them, while we still have two warring tribes perpetually fighting over our scarce resources.