Embattled former minister remains on JLP's slate... at least for now

Embattled former minister remains on JLP's slate... at least for now

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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Member of Parliament St Catherine South Central Dr Andrew Wheatley will have to wait and see if he will be allowed to defend his seat on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket in the next general election.

Prime Minister and JLP Leader Andrew Holness yesterday underscored that he had no say in whether Wheatley will remain an MP and argued that it was too early yet to say if the embattled former minister will be allowed to represent the JLP whenever the next general election is called.

“MPs are obviously elected by the people. I can't remove an MP from his position. There are processes in law for that to occur. “As it relates to whether or not Dr Wheatley will continue as a candidate, from what I have seen, what I have observed, and my own analysis of the situation, I don't think that there would be any move at this time not to have him run as a candidate, bearing in mind that there are situations; if, for example, there is a prosecution, then he would be held to account through that process,” Holness said, in response to questions at a virtual media briefing from Jamaica House yesterday.

“So I think it would be a little bit premature of me to consider any such action without more,” added Holness, noting that the JLP has to look closely before making any decision not to keep Wheatley on its slate for the next general election.

Wheatley, who resigned as the minister of energy in July 2018, following a firestorm surrounding allegations of corruption at a number of entities under his portfolio, found himself back under the microscope on Tuesday when the Integrity Commission released the result of its probe into allegations of corruption at Petrojam.

In the report tabled in Parliament, the Integrity Commission accused Wheatley of being “less than truthful” and “dishonest” in his responses to questions posed by its investigators.

“It is the conclusion of the director of investigations that Dr Wheatley was dishonest in his aforementioned representations and, in this regard, sought to mislead and did mislead the director of investigation contrary to Section 48 (3) of the Integrity Commission Act, Section 11E of the Commission of Enquiry Act, and Section 4 of the Perjury Act,” the report read.

The director of investigations recommended that a copy of the report and, in particular, the allegations and findings concerning the repurposing of the donation of funds from McCook's Citizens' Association to Sydenham Citizens' Association (in Wheatley's constituency), and allegations of fraud as they relate to the signatures which were purported to be that of one Charmaine White, be referred to the commissioner of police for the conduct of criminal investigations.

“It is further recommended that a handwriting expert be engaged to examine the authenticity of the signatures purported to be that of Charmaine White,” the report added.

Yesterday, Holness said while he had seen the report he was not yet in a position to comment on the findings.

“I have not yet had a chance to review the report in detail. I just got a copy of it, like everyone else yesterday (Tuesday). I have glanced through and I have done some reading … on the summary findings. I still have to be advised on that.

“The Cabinet, I am certain, we will review it, between the attorney general and myself and the minister of justice. I think this is a significant report and we should commend the Integrity Commission for completing this investigation,” added Holness, indicating that the report is not the end of the matter with persons referred for criminal prosecution.

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