Holness's opportunity to stamp out gutter politics

Linton P
Gordon

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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It is a pity that in reacting to Donna Parchment-Brown, the political ombudsman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness came across as an aloof, arrogant, and high-handed ruler who dares anyone to question his action.

The prime minister needs to appreciate that no matter how he wishes to be interpreted, there is deep suspicion on the minds of several citizens that his promise when sworn in to be accountable to the citizens of this country for all his acts was a hollow, non-genuine one, made for the beauty of the words and to impress on the occasion, but with no intention to abide it.

If the Office of the Political Ombudsman, which is a commissioner of Parliament, can be dismissed by Prime Minister Holness in such a high-handed way then us ordinary citizens better “hold him corner” and do not ask Holness any questions.

The issue that has given rise to the harsh response of Holness is the intention of the Government to spend a large sum of money in a constituency in which there is an upcoming by-election. There is no doubt that Holness, with a thin one-seat majority in Parliament, would be made far more comfortable were his party, the Jamaica Labour Party, to win this seat in St Mary South Eastern. What Holness is seeking to convince us all of is that the spending of this large sum of money in the constituency prior to the election is a mere coincidence and has nothing to do with an intention to unduly influence voters or, put bluntly, to buy votes and therefore succeed at the polls.

In so doing Holness is reminding us of the trauma this country went through when then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, for almost one year, kept telling the country that the decision not to proceed with the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke was all a matter of protecting the constitutional rights of Jamaicans. On that occasion, then Prime Minister Golding looked us in our eyes and told us that it was not Dudus he was protecting. Golding must now come to the reality that the vast majority of us did not believe that the issue then was a matter of protecting our constitutional rights. We believed that those decisions were made in the interest of Dudus and the Jamaica Labour Party, and not in the interest of the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.

On this occasion, Holness should accept that the vast majority of Jamaicans believe that the motive for spending this huge sum of money in a constituency with an upcoming election is not so much to fix the roads in the constituency, but to influence the outcome of the election.

If Holness wishes us to believe in his commitment to accountability and that he is not carrying on the tradition of dirty, gutter politics, then he should take the high road and make a decision to hold the election first and then do the spending after.

In so doing, Holness will establish beyond any doubt that he has brought about a period of honour, truth, and trust. He would go down in history as a man who can be trusted and whose words can be accepted. He would also come across as one who is above gutter politics and who is committed to never using public resources for political motives.

Looked at this way, this is a golden opportunity for Prime Minister Holness to craft his character, image, profile, and legacy once and for all so that we will always readily accept his words knowing that he postponed spending in a constituency with an upcoming election. His legacy would be that funds should never be spent by a ruling party in a way calculated to unduly influence, the electorate, or put simply, to buy votes.

Linton P Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.

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