PM did the right thing, Henry argues

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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POLITICAL commentator Martin Henry yesterday said the resignations of two Government ministers in less than a year is not an indictment on the leadership of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Henry's comment comes in the wake of reports yesterday that Government Senator and Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid had tendered his resignation from both the Cabinet and the Upper House amid allegations of corruption and nepotism.

Reid's resignation, at the request of the prime minister, comes eight months after former Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley tendered his resignation following the explosive Petrojam scandal.

“I think the prime minister has taken the correct course of action in light of the events unfolding, and as far as we have the details about an investigation into activities at an educational institution. Once a police investigation is involved we've moved away from the usual media-driven scandals and calls of corruption to a substantive issue which is being investigated by law enforcement,” Henry said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

He added that Holness has very little control over the behaviour of individual members of his Government and has had to make choices from the available pool in the House of Representatives and from the appointments he has made in the Senate.

“Obviously, one would expect that the prime minister would have made good-faith appointments based on the calibre of the persons that he has selected. Thereafter though, their own course of action and behaviour would have to be attributed to the actors themselves. The prime minister has taken an early and decisive action to request Minister Reid's resignation as the investigations unfold. I doubt if we can ask very much more of a prime minister as head of the Government,” said Henry.

Reid, in his letter of resignation dated March 22, 2019, said he was made aware of investigations by authorities into the operations of his ministry and related agencies under his watch.

He said in the interest of good governance and transparency, and to allow for a full investigation and resolution of the matter “I hereby resign from the Cabinet of Jamaica effective March 22, 2019.

“I look forward to serving again at the earliest opportunity,” said Reid.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) said it was concerned that in a matter of months, two Cabinet-level ministers have had to step down.

“The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce notes the decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to request the resignation of the Minister of Education, Youth & Information Senator Ruel Reid. From what we understand, this decision was occasioned by allegations of impropriety with respect to the minister's portfolio, and in the prime minister's view, it was appropriate for the minister to be permanently detached from his responsibilities during investigations into the allegations,” the JCC said in a statement.

“While we are not aware of the details of the allegations, one benchmark of good governance is that if there are substantive imputations of impropriety, the persons at the centre of those allegations should step aside — even temporarily — without the shadow of their presence casting doubt on the investigative process,” the statement said.

“This principle, we believe, recommends itself throughout all facets of the public sector. While we commend the prime minister for initiating this process, we nonetheless are concerned that in a matter of months, two Cabinet-level ministers have had to step down. We look forward to quick and transparent updates on the process and the results of the pending investigation,” the chamber added.

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