We really are not a principled people

Friday, February 15, 2019

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Dear Editor,

On Friday, July 20, 2018, I was privileged to have the Jamaica Observer publish a letter that was headlined 'We are not a principled people', in which I sought to address the then emerging Petrojam scandal and our general ambivalence towards corruption.

I am saddened to acknowledge that the auditor general's report on Petrojam and emerging details of the separation packages of the former managing director and human resources manager have done nothing to change my view that most Jamaicans' position on matters of corruption is dependent on who is benefiting from corrupt deeds.

This expedient approach to corruption explains the absence of a groundswell of opposition to and calls for strong actions to eradicate or significantly minimise incidents of corruption in public and private institutions.

The Opposition's broadside against revelations of real and perceived acts of corruption since the beginning of the Government's tenure ring hollow as their enthusiasm to condemn, stamp out, or prosecute corrupt activities during its tenure in Government was, at best, muted.

Opportunism on the part of the Opposition does not mean their condemnations are without merit. Indeed, being opportunistic appears to be a basic requirement for Opposition parties in modern democracies. It just amplifies the hypocrisy of our national approach to corruption.

Sadly, both major political parties are guilty of this double standard which appears to be ingrained in our culture, and is encapsulated in the saying, “Tief neva love fi see tief wid long bag.” The saying suggests that we are not really opposed to stealing as long as our take is bigger than that of the other thief.

The dichotomy between the prime minister's words and actions in relation to corruption does not surprise me. After all, he is the same person who reversed his position on the use of National Housing Trust (NHT) funds for budgetary support as soon as he took possession of the keys to Jamaica House. Not only did he reverse his position, but he saw no need to proffer an explanation for his changed position. So much for being different and transformative.

I have long concluded that the source of our challenges with governance and corruption lies not with politicians, public servants or the private sector, but with us the citizens of Jamaica.

An electorate made up of principled citizens will not repeatedly elect unprincipled leaders. A nation's leaders are truly a reflection of its citizens.

Wayne Plummer

Greater Portmore

St Catherine

wayne.r.plummer@gmail.com


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