Sunday, May 19, 2013
Government creates enormous flaw in governanceKEN CHAPLIN
THE government created an enormous flaw in governance when it cut off financing from the Finsac Commission of Inquiry which makes it impossible for it to complete its work on the financial meltdown in the l990s and later the Finsac fiasco which followed. The commission has completed its inquiry and it was only for the report to be drafted and printed when the Ministry of Finance acted purportedly because of the lack of funds. The action was deliberate and calculated. The government found money for less important matters.
What is the true reason for showing disrespect to the commission? It is well known that politicians benefited from the financial meltdown and the operation of Finsac. Money should not have been a problem for the commission, having regard to the consequences suffered by the country as a result of the failure of the financial management of the country during the 1990s which saw 40 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), amounting to $140 billion lost and the lives of thousands of debtors and creditors wrecked, many beyond recovery. It is true that some creditors got back their deposits, but lost one year's interest. Debtors and creditors want to know what happened: Was it Dr Davies's fault or was it because of bad management by the financial institutions, as he claims? The debtors, the creditors, and indeed the whole country have a right to know.
And why are the Finsac commissioners unbelievably silent on such an important issue that is tantamount to sabotaging the commission which another government set up? As I pointed out in a previous column, the commissioners should do everything, even if it means sending only the typed pages to the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. The commission was appointed by the previous governor general on the recommendation of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, and it would be only a matter of continuity for the report to be sent to Sir Patrick. Indeed, the present governor general should have asked for the report. It is fundamentally wrong in governance for one governor general to appoint a Commission of Inquiry and the next government contrives to cripple the work of the commission to prevent it from reporting to the next governor general, should there be a new one.
As a creditor who lost money in the Finsac fiasco, I have no intention of ceasing my criticism of the government over the Finsac affairs.
In the meantime, the Association of Finsac Entrepreneurs (AFE) has acted correctly in appealing to the governor general. In an article carried by the Jamaica Observer on July 25, AFE said that its membership felt that the only hope for a mutually acceptable resolution of the issue lies with the governor general. AFE would like the governor general to meet with the commissioners and find some way of ensuring that the Finsac report is completed and made public in order to meet the purpose for which it was intended. Under the Commission of Inquiry Law, the commission must report. As some PNP comrades used to say in the 1970s, "The struggle continues."
The move to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's final appellate court is running into a deadlock. The government has confirmed the process which must be carried out in Parliament as stated in this column on July 17. The first step was taken last week by the government when it laid two bills in Parliament - the most important of which is the one to amend the Constitution in order for Jamaica to join the CCJ. For the bills to succeed there must be a two-thirds majority vote in favour, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The government can muster two-thirds of the vote in the House but must get the support of the Opposition in the Senate. The Opposition appears fixed on its position that the matter is of such fundamental importance that the people's representatives in Parliament are not the ones who should decide, but the general population through a referendum.
As far as this column is concerned, the overriding factor to be considered by both is the considerably reduced cost and time which will come with the CCJ. At present it costs a great deal of money to take one's appeal to the elite Privy Council in London as against going to the CCJ. In fact, most Jamaicans cannot afford the cost of taking their appeals to the Privy Council, and we face the ridiculous situation where we need a visa to go there. This does not add up.
Real justice should not depend on how large your pocket is in pursuing it. Justice should provide an equal opportunity as far as possible for litigants to be heard. Not being able to pursue your appeal in the Privy Council if you seek to go that route is definitely a disadvantage.
According to a recent issue of The Gleaner a police officer said : "Our investigations are saying that these persons (on the persons of interest list) have actually committed these acts, so we are asking them to turn themselves over to the police." If the police officer is quoted correctly, the statement is defamatory, or close to defamatory, and I would like see the matter tested in court. The police had stopped such strategies, but they have started to publish lists of wanted persons again.
The police officer was declaring those on the list guilty without trial. That is a matter for the court to decide. The process as I know it and which was practised when I was communication director of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, is that a person's name should not be published until he has been arrested or a warrant executed for his arrest.
The police should seek advice from the Attorney General's Department and hold a training course on how to avoid pitfalls when making statements to the media.
Last week my credit at Digicel totalled more than $600. I tried to make a call but was told that my mobile telephone had been declared inactive because I had not used it for a few days. I was charged $100 to reactivate the phone. How unfair to subscribers! Any minister of government who agreed to such a deal with Digicel should be banned from representative politics for life.
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