Did former Contractor General Christie hurt more than help Jamaica?


Monday, June 12, 2017

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An independent and reasonably objective assessment of the impact of former Contractor General Greg Christie on corruption in Jamaica is sorely needed, as he continues to seek to crown himself in a glory which seems to exist only in his mind.

Regrettably, Christie's two-part response to the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn in last week's Jamaica Observer failed to bring light to the important discussion on reducing corruption in Jamaica.

But it demonstrated clearly two critical things that show why he failed to have the desired impact on corruption and why there is at least the perception — even among foreign entities supporting him — that his cases referred to the DPP were corruption cases.

Christie's approach to this job as contractor general doomed him to failure even before he began. In his own words in a February 8, 2010 news release, which he rehashed last week, he said the following:

“…There will always be transgressors who must be forced into compliance. And the way to do that is to send a strong, unequivocal, and unmistakable signal that no matter who you are, what your station in life is, or how minor your transgressions may be, if you violate the criminal laws of our country, you will pay. That was the signal which was sent by the OCG's zero-tolerance policy.”

His dogged approach was welcomed by Jamaicans who were tired of corruption which was like a cancer eating away at the country's prospects for economic growth and good governance. But that popularity soon went to his head and he forgot that the standards which he was applying to Jamaica did not work even in the much better-resourced Canada, from which he had returned to take up the job.

Christie threw out the baby with the bath water. The first thing he did was to subject the people he was investigating to the court of public opinion, long before he had presented conclusive evidence of their alleged wrong doing, by releasing his initial reports to the media. So, even when they were later exonerated, the damage was already done and hard-won reputations were destroyed forever.

The most famous example, among others, was Richard Azan, the MP who overzealously facilitated the building of shops for Christiana vendors who used to sell in dreadful conditions on the roadside. Azan did not follow the letter of the law. For that he had to resign. But it turned out that he had not done anything corrupt. Fortunately for him and the people he served, he was able to return to his job. Others were not so lucky.

Another ridiculous example is that of Danville Walker (currently managing director of the Observer), who missed a deadline by six days to supply information the OCG requested in his matter while he was commissioner of Customs. Christie would have the label criminal slapped all over this matter because, as he said, “…no matter…how minor your transgressions may be, if you violate the criminal laws of our country, you will pay”.

If the punishment is to fit the crime, it cannot be that one must hug up the label of criminality for the rest of one's life for missing a deadline by a mere six days. Otherwise, for a traffic ticket one should languish in jail to suit Christie. This level of extremism does not work anywhere.

The fight against corruption, especially that so long embedded in the Jamaican society, demands a smart, practical, intelligence-driven approach that wins friends rather than makes enemies of innocent people. The Ggestapo belongs to the Hitler era.

To the point that the cases referred by the OCG under Christie to the DPP were being seen as “corruption” cases by even eminent people like Dr Damien King and Dr Trevor Munroe, it's all Christie's fault. It is to be noted that Dr King has apologised for “mischaracterising” the OCG's words. Christie used “criminal” instead of “corruption”. How they split hairs!

But it is not only locals who think he was talking about corruption. He quotes the US State Department's 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSRs); the United States Government perception of Jamaica's corruption problem, and the performance of the Office of the DPP in its 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 INCSRs; and the Organisation of American States 2014 Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption report on Jamaica.

Interestingly, all of these entities describe the cases referred by the OCG to the DPP as “corruption” cases. Anxious to show how credible their reports are, Christie described them as “eminent and independent third-party external agencies”. Indeed, all they did was to cast their reports in the image of the OCG's.

Here's what Christie said in his response to DPP Llewellyn:

“…I will make reference to only two of the referenced agencies, and their comments. In the US State Department's 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the following verbatim assessment of Jamaica's corruption problem, and the performance of Jamaica's Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, under the leadership of DPP Paula Llewellyn, was made:

'Corruption (in Jamaica) remains entrenched, widespread, and compounded by a judicial system that has a poor record of successfully prosecuting corruption cases against high-level law enforcement and government officials.'

“Interestingly, almost identical language has also been utilised by the United States Government to describe the perception of Jamaica's corruption problem, and the performance of the ODPP, in its 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 INCSRs.

“Finally, the Organisation of American States, in its 2014 Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption report on Jamaica, expressed the following concerns about Jamaica's DPP:

'All these government bodies rely exclusively upon the DPP to carry out prosecutions of corruption and corruption-related offences. Their effectiveness can only go so far if prosecutions are not being carried out. The committee observes that the country under review (ie Jamaica) should consider addressing the lack of prosecutions or actions undertaken by the Office of the DPP.'

“It is instructive to note that the OAS's assessment of Jamaica's Office of the DPP was settled by a team of professionals from other countries, inclusive of eminent lawyers, after a thorough and independent review of the OCG's referrals to the DPP, among others.”

So they, too, think Christie's cases are corruption cases. The fault is Christie's, but he is not alone. Certain non-governmental organisations, in their quest to ensure their overseas funding go to great lengths to cry about corruption and human rights violations, never stopping long enough to care about the people whose lives and credibility they are trampling upon.

They can't wait for evidence or conviction because they might miss their donor's budget cycle. They grab the OCG's initial reports or press releases and submit them as proof of corruption or wrongdoing. These are the people who benefit from Christie's OCG.

If the best of young Jamaican minds refuse to go into the civil service or any public service whatsoever, we need not look any further for the reason. Thank Greg Christie and his cohorts. They say their intention is to do good, but they end up doing more harm to Jamaica.

So after Christie's ranting and raving, the most damning evidence that he has been ineffective is that same US report which says: “…Corruption (in Jamaica) remains entrenched, widespread…”




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