KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Former minister of state in the Ministry of Transport and Works and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament for East Rural St. Andrew, Joseph Hibbert, died Saturday night in the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) from a massive heart attack.
The 65-year-old-old former politician and retired civil servants suffered the heart attack at his home in Kingston, and was taken to the hospital where he died after all efforts to save his life failed.
Hibbert, an engineer, was born in Bito district in Rural St Andrew, where he attended primary school. He later attended Excelsior High School and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He worked with the Ministry of Transport and Works for several years, eventually retiring as the ministry’s chief technical officer.
He joined the JLP shortly after his retirement, and was elected as the Member of Parliament for East Rural St. Andrew for two terms between 2002 and 2011.
Hibbert’s political career was marred by the linking of his name with the UK’s Mabey & Johnson Limited scandal in the 2009, in which it was alleged that he was bribed by the company for his support in obtaining contracts from the Jamaican government in the 1990s, while he was Chief Technical Officer at the Ministry.
Hibbert immediately resigned as Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works, seeking “the time and the freedom” to clear his name. Eventually, no evidence was produced linking him to the allegations and, although he was never charged, he did not stand for re-election in 2011 choosing, instead, to retire in from active politics.
Hibbert died without closure to the allegations made against him, and up to the time of his death insisted on his innocence. A home which he had bought in Tucker Avenue, off Mountain Avenue in East Kingston, was put for auction shortly after his retirement for failure to pay his mortgage. Hibbert explained that he was having difficulties meeting the payments, because he was not receiving his pension payments from Parliament.
General Secretary of the JLP, Dr Horace Chang, has recalled Hibbert as “a quiet, gentle political giant, a patriotic Jamaican and a man of honour”, whose career was unfortunately cut short by circumstances over which he had no control.
“It is extremely unfortunate that someone who has had such a long career as a distinguished and decent civil servant, could have so easily become a victim of political and corporate intrigue which eventually destroyed his political career and may have hastened his death, without a shred of evidence being produced to support the allegations made against him,” Dr. Chang said.
He said that the JLP humbly accepted the ordeal as the price Hibbert has paid in service to his party and country, and still hopes that the truth will eventually be told and his name cleared from any accusation of dishonesty which may have bedevilled him up to the time of his death.