We may well need law changes

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I have noticed that many have been salivating over the recent report from the auditor general regarding the affairs at Petrojam. Many have been commenting on the revelations, exclaiming that the report points to a dark day in governance and politics in Jamaica. The prime minister himself declared that the report is a watershed moment.

There has been disquiet on social media, with some advocating for the removal of the former substantive Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley from his role as a Member of Parliament. On the face of it this would seem a good call, but let me caution the crowd that one does not vote for a member of the executive; there is a clear distinction between the executive and legislative branches and the difference between how one ends up as a member of either.

Whenever have allegations of misappropriation of funds prevented anyone from sitting in Parliament? If this is what we want to see we have to argue for legislative changes and constitutional reform. The legislative environment would have to open the door to a minister who is proven to have engaged in impropriety would be precluded from holding national political office of any kind.

Does the legislative environment allow for the kind of punishment that people are advocating for?

In Barbados the Financial Services and Audit Act does not allow for the sanction of an ordinary member of cabinet. Suffice it to say that the punishments and sanctions citizens are calling for must be on the country's law books in order for them to take effect.

The bigger picture for me is one of constitutional reform, one that reflects the reality of the State. Sadly, the reality in Jamaica is that misappropriation of this kind is well documented, and leaving it up to politicians to police themselves has led us to exactly this point.

Underlying this entire episode is the need for us to acknowledge that the copy-and-paste Westminster system does not serve our best interests; therefore, legislators must stop pussyfooting around legislative and constitutional reform such as the Impeachment Bill, as proposed by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding and current office holder Andrew Holness.

Lorenzo Smith


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