'Not just the inner city that is to be raided'

Police raid of Reid, Pinnock houses sent strong signal to Jamaica, says Munroe

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
Halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 11, 2019

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ANTI-CORRUPTION watchdog Professor Trevor Munroe has labelled Wednesday a good day in the history of Jamaica, as a former Cabinet minister, a university professor, and three of their relatives and friends were taken into custody to face corruption charges.

While making it clear that he was not pronouncing on the guilt or innocence of former Education Minister Ruel Reid, his wife Sharen, his daughter Sharelle, president of the Caribbean Maritime University Professor Fritz Pinnock, and Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence (Jamaica Labour Party, Brown's Town Division, St Ann), Munroe said the operation by the major investigative agencies sent a strong message to all Jamaicans.

“It was a good day, not only for our justice system because former Minister Reid, Professor Pinnock and others will have their day in court, it was also a good day for our governance arrangements.

“The Jamaican people have been very concerned that there has been one law for the rich and another law for the poor, there is one law for those who are connected and another law for those who are disadvantaged,” Munroe yesterday told the Jamaica Observer following the launch of a European Union-funded National Integrity Action (NIA) project dubbed, 'Combating Corruption in Jamaica: Improving Citizens' Access to Justice through Accountability, Transparency and Access to Information'.

He noted that the perception that all Jamaicans are not treated equally under the law, was one of the findings of the Justice Sector Task Force Report of 2007.

According to Munroe, numerous reports over the years have indicated that corruption of elected and public officials and organised crime are undermining the institutions of the State, and are among the perils facing Jamaica's national security and development.

Munroe underscored that two Government ministers were convicted on corruption charges in the 10 years before Jamaica gained independence from Britain in 1962, but in the 57 years since then, JAG Smith, who served as minister of labour and the public service in the 1980s, was the only Cabinet member to be charged, convicted and sent to prison.

“Many (ministers) have resigned and have not been arrested, tried and convicted. Therefore, the operations carried out by MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency), the Financial Investigation Division and the Constabulary Financial Unit of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Division, yesterday (Wednesday), manifested a level of fairness.

“It is not just the inner city that is to be raided when there is sufficient justification, information and evidence, but uptown can and should be raided if we are to apply more fully, the principle of equality before the law,” said Munroe, who is the executive director of NIA.

“I would wish, and hope, that the principle [of equality before the law] would not only apply at the stage of investigation and the gathering of information, which was carried out yesterday (Wednesday), but also through the stage of prosecution as well as adjudication, so that the Jamaican people can begin to once again, feel that there is some hope that each will be treated equally and not just those who are connected,” added Munroe.

The NIA head argued that the arrest of Reid and company reflected the result of a series of institutional behaviours over the last year, including the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament, which kept probing the allegations; the media, which kept reporting on the developments; civil society, which demanded answers; and members of the public who made posts on social and traditional media.

“So what we are seeing is a coming together of important institutions of our democratic systems that have facilitated the professionalism exercised yesterday (Wednesday) by the critical institutions which carried out the raids,” said Munroe.


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